The Girls Have An Outing

At night, the temperature continues to dip into the teens. During the day it gets a tad warmer. There’s been some melting. At long last, there’s a strip of frozen ground in front of each barn. It’s rock hard, but it’s clear of snow and there’s old grass exposed. I can finally open the door to the Gem’s run.



It took them awhile to find their way to the wider swath of turf, which is where they stayed. Even Misty didn’t venture across the snow. (Although, you can see here that she’s thinking about it.) Not that there is anything to beckon her past the barn. The lawn remains covered by a solid crust.



The Ladies also had an outing. They were delighted.


Despite the fact they the hens were staying close to the coops, they were not safe from predators. I bundled up in ski pants and a down coat and kept an eye on them. Hawks patrol the skies. Four footed predators usually stay away during the sunny midday, but there’s no guarantee.

A few days ago, Lily let us know that something was in the vicinity. She insisted on staying outside, and sat in the middle of the yard on the snow, watching. A raccoon had come onto the porch the previous night. I figured that she was keeping it at bay. A raccoon is smart enough to stay away when an athletic dog is on guard. But, it didn’t. Early that afternoon, the raccoon came onto the back porch. Lily cornered it under the wood pile. With Steve’s help, I directed into a dog crate. I was very relieved that Lily hadn’t tangled with it, but that was more luck than sense on her part.



There could be only two reasons why this raccoon behaved as it did: 1) someone was feeding it and it had become used to people or 2) it was rabid. I called a registered wildlife rehab group who said they would take it. When we handed the crate over to the experienced volunteer, she took one look and determined that the raccoon was ill. It died the next day of rabies. She was worried about our goats. A rabid raccoon will act friendly one moment, and attack another. Had it bitten the goats? Luckily, no, and they are vaccinated. As are Lily and Scooter. Vaccines have gotten a lot of bad press lately, but not from  me. This story could have gone another way, and without a rabies vaccine, I could have lost my dogs and my goats.

Once again, I am grateful to my good dog Lily.



  1. Good dog Lily! How fortunate you are to have her. This could have been a very bad story…..even for you and Steve.

  2. That was scary! I am glad it all ended up on a positive note with y’all.

  3. Noble protector! I’m sure Lily got a special reward from you. I mistakenly thought all rabid animals were “foaming at the mouth and acting aggressively crazy”…thank you for yet another educational post. You do such good things :)

    • I should have added that there are two types of rabies. This “dumb” rabies reduces the animal’s natural fears and they act friendly. If you ever see a friendly wild animal, assume rabies.

  4. Glad everyone was ok! We have a problem in our area with people catching problem raccoon’s on their property and then releasing them on someone else’s rather than having them destroyed by the animal control. Thanks for writing this post – I hope people will realize how dangerous setting raccoon’s lose can be. If sick, they can harm someone else’s livestock or children – and the only way to know for sure if they are sick is to have them tested.

    • In my state it is illegal to trap a wild animal and release it elsewhere. You’re right – your problem animal will be someone else’s. You could get injured handling it. Wild animals have mange and ringworm. You don’t want to have contact with these things (we left the crate with the wildlife volunteer!) Putting a wild animal out in the woods can upset the territories of already established animals. So many reasons to call the experts!

  5. Out here in Cal: whooping cough, measles on the rise. A new and as yet unexplained polio like paralytic illness has shown up. In the wild rabies too. At the cat spay and neuter clinic I volunteer with we vaccinate ALMOST all the cats. There are unfortunately, a couple of “holistic” feral cat care givers who don’t and it put the whole program at risk. The “anti” vaccination movement is insane. This month there was a confirmed case of a man with measles, on a BART train, who put thousands of people at risk for exposure. And yes, he in fact did spread it.

  6. Good dog, Lily!
    Fascinating story about the raccoon. I’ve never knew much about rabies, except maybe “Cujo” : ) , but as usual, I get a great education about many topics here on HenCam! Thanks for another great post, Terry. Glad everyone is well!

  7. Thanks for this info, Terry. As a new chicken owner (convert?), I’m trying to be very aware of the dangers to my chicks. Although I live in a semi-rural area (more houses than open spaces), I know there’s a possibility of predators showing up who will be attracted to my chicks–even if I haven’t seen them before. I will absolutely keep in my mind any “friendly” animals that come too close, as I had the mistaken “frothing at the mouth” vision of a rabid animal.

  8. A sick raccoon took up residence right off our front porch near the door. Nearly got my husband when he went to take the dog out. Thank heaven for dog noses! Our dog snarled and went at the raccoon who flinched and fell off the porch on its back. That gave my husband time to yank the door open and he and the dog jumped back inside. It laid there confused for a minute before it rolled over and curled back up. We got on the phone and they came out and shot it.

    We have a lot of raccoons out here and they’re pretty used to people, but that has been the only sick one we’ve had in the 20+ years we’ve lived here. (Hmmm, I hope I haven’t cursed myself by saying that….)

  9. Does anyone know of any raccoon deterrents, anything to keep the critters off the back porch after the trash? They never get into the barrels but are almost nightly visitors.

    • This is one of those management issues. Create a trash area (you can build a small, contained spot.) Use raccoon-proof lids and latches. Don’t ever leave out pet food.They’ll find easier pickings elsewhere.

  10. Wow, good dog Lilly. You have so many more predators than we do in the U.K. It is scary. Can’t believe you still have so much snow too. After many months of rain we now have lovely spring weather. I was in my flip flops at the weekend, in March!! It’s crazy. Last year we had snow.

  11. As I was reading the story I was thinking that was a raccoon with rabies or distemper.
    Healthy raccoons rarely show themselves during the day.
    A few years back the local raccoon population exploded and distemper took over as mother natures way of thinning the pack. I had several show up during the day. Animal control was very busy that year.

    As always Lily is the “bestest” farm dog.

  12. OMG rabies! You all are so fortunate to have gotten rid of that raccoon without a fight! Our neighbor has caught over 2 dozen coons in the last year. I see the prints in the snow, and it makes me shudder. They are so dreadful to have around chickens. At our home, they killed all of our beautiful koi, leaving a bloody mess of fins and bones on the patio, and I haven’t restocked the pond since (4 years now.) I can imagine the horror of going out to the coop and finding that kind of carnage. Coons, fox, coyotes, possum, skunk, raptors, we have them all.

    • I’ve been worried about the koi, but again, good dog Lily has kept the wildlife at bay. She’s getting older (almost 11!) but remains on the job.

    • They occasionally snatch a goldfish from my pond as I find what you did Carol and fin or two but so far the koi apparently are smarter and head to the depths of my pond.

  13. Way to go Lily. Grateful she was not attacked. 11 years is pretty good for a larger breed dog from what my vet has told me over the years. How much longer is that darn Polar Vortex supposed to last! We had 69f degree weather here this past Sunday!

  14. Terry, nice to see your girls out for a bit. Spring is slowly making it’s way to you. That raccoon situation must have been scary. Thankfully it all worked out without injury. Lily is a good girl. She deserves a reward. Perhaps a new toy or one of her favorite treats =)

  15. Wow! Glad that everything ended well…

    Here in S.Cal, I’ve had three coyote sightings in this typical suburb: once on a December evening, and the other two times it couldn’t have been any later than 2 p.m. There are no rules as far as coyotes are concerned!

    -LOL! I was wearing flip-flops while I was in New York this December…well, it was only to take out some garbage…and I was wearing tabi socks too…not to mention it was a relatively warm day. Now, here in S.Cal, it is so warm and dry I am absolutely dreading the arrival of summer. Hopefully I’ll spend some of it in NY- summer rainfall! Thunderstorms! :^)

    • I had to lure her away from the raccoon, so she got half a bag of the really, really good treats – saved for special occasions like this.

  16. Good dog Lily! A much better ending than in Old Yeller which is my only education on rabies, oh, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

  17. Amazing story! Lily is The Best Dog Ever! Yes, never trust friendly wild animals.
    Here in Eastern Oregon, we are blessed with a full array of predators: eagles, hawks, owls, coyotes, mink, badger, fox, skunk, coon, weasel, feral dogs, feral cats. Makes chicken keeping quite a challenge. We have a crew of working farm dogs, plenty of traps and pellet guns are kept handy. I never have had to encounter a rabid critter, and hopefully never will.

  18. Hello :) just discovered your site today and am simple ecstatic! I’ve learned so many wonderful things today which will be helpful while raising my 11 beautiful 7 week old Buff Orpington chickens. I have fallen in love with your lovely chicken coop with the bright red door and was wondering if you happen to have the square footage and dimensions. At the moment my chicks are in a 8×4 coop in the basement, with 2 roosts and logs to perch on along with a few plastic cat toys with bells which they love to play with. LOL, I spend about an hour each day in the coop with them and they seem to love it, me too!!

  19. Precious Lilly!! We have raccoons here too even though were in the city. They sit on the roof and chimney next door. I see them out the window when I go upstairs.

  20. Anti vaccination may be extreme but over vaccination is not! Vet. And drs reg give vaccines to immune compromised individuals, this is very dangerous and not recommended by the vaccine manufacturers and many vaccines are unnecesary. Tje post that ridiculed the holistic outlook needs to do more research. I am not anti vaccine, but have done a lot of research, and will continue to follow holistic practices. Rabies and distemper vaccines have been proven to be active for minimum of six years, titer tests can be done to validate this. Sorry to be writing a book here but this is a subject I take very seriously, and we all should. Research is my answer to anyone concerned about vaccines for their animals, children or themselves.

    • I appreciate your concerns, but I still believe that important and basic vaccines like rabies and distemper should be given on the recommended schedules. There’s no downside. There’s also a lot of outright wrong “facts” being presented on the internet about the dangers of vaccines, without science behind it.

  21. Good girl Lily!

    I’m so glad you posted this Terry as I’ve been looking for an excuse to pick your brain a bit about dogs… I lost my beloved lab mix, jack, last summer. He was 16 and is missed every day. As such, I’d like to get another dog, but with three new baby chicks ( who are doing great and are already ridiculously loved) I worry….. You mention that Lily has a high prey drive… Has she ever tried to hurt the ladies? And do you have any suggestions for bringing a pup into the flock?


    • Dogs and chickens – that’s a good question and I need to write an entire blogpost. My previous dog never chased or bothered them (but did love to eat the poo. yuk.) Lily is too reactive to movement to ever safely let her out with the hens. A lot depends on the dog. If you have a dog who has self-control, you still have to train.

  22. Terry I know this is a long shot but you didn’t see the raccoon get near hen house where Phoebe lives ? I know it is very very rare, but rabbits can get rabies as well. But unfortunately for rabbits their is no rabies vaccine.

  23. We had something similar happen. A full grown beast of a raccoon came out in broad daylight while my 3 dogs were out. After they went in, he got out of the tree and marched right up to our coop to check out my girls! Scared the you know what out of me! He was enormous! We were able to scare him off and haven’t seen him again. I was thinking he must have been rabid!