Living in the country means living with varmints. Varmints are the wild critters you thought were so cute when you lived in the city. Now you see varmints as the enemy, because they see your place as a 24 hour buffet.
Varmint enemy # 1 is the raccoon, the devil in fur. It eats poultry through the cage wire when hens are in sleep stupor at night. Sometimes they just eat the head, or nibble off the toes sticking through the bottom of the wire. They'll dig under fences, and systematically test for holes or weaknesses, too. Whenever they can get them, 'coons delight in eating eggs. We've caught three since Saturday using peanut butter in a live trap. Kept the one from Saturday, now waiting in the freezer. My philosophy: dine on my chickens, I'll dine on you!
Oppossums rate second place, because of frequency of visits. Last month I saw one amble past the live trap, and approach the animal area while I was standing there. When I shouted and threw a soda can, the thing looked at me, turned slowly and ambled back into the woods. Possums have made themselves fat on our chickens. Waiting and shooting seems to be the only cure; they don't seem to fall for the live trap.
Skunks come right after oppossums, due to shock value. One evening Art pulled back a plywood shade to check for eggs and found a furry black and white chicken. He dropped the shade, tossed the egg basket, and leaped backward into the water bucket. The skunk, nonplussed, continued to crack and slurp the eggs. Too busy to spray, fortunately for Art!
Last of the frequent visitors are snakes, who delight equally in swallowing eggs or small birds. We had kept two quail in a cage in a shed. Poor Mr. Quail had a hard night, when I found him the next morning he was cowering in a corner while a rat snake struggled to escape. A bulge prevented the snake's retreat back through the wire. It was Mrs. Quail. Another snake climbed the power pole to the transformer, shorting out our electricity for several hours. The power company pulled the french fried snake free and gave it to us as a souvenier.
Of course there are coyotes, bobcats, and even a cougar in this area, but the 'coons, possums, skunks, and snakes are the worst. If they'd stay in the woods, we'd leave them alone. But no, they just keep lining up at Burnett's Buffet.