We have kept ducks for the past five years or so - we live on 1/2 acre right in town, but ducks are allowed, and they are great organic pest control. About two year ago, a black rooster just showed up, out of nowhere, and made himself at home. Tommy (the rooster) roosts in a huge oak tree in front of our house, and has never been bothered by predators in his nine-foot high perch. About two months ago, a red hen showed up - we named her Marge. She was very friendly and personable, and had a great personality. She would follow us around the yard, eat food from the kids' hands and provide us with endless entertainment.
Marge had been roosting on the front porch, but about two nights ago moved the the back porch. Our ducks roost out in the yard, under some bushes, and we have not had predator trouble - I now see that I have become complacent. Last night about midnight, I heard Marge making noise - I went outside and saw a large raccoon just off the back porch, but the hen was nowhere to be found. I chased off the raccoon (didn't have a weapon, unfortunately) and looked for the hen. I found her in the flower bed next to the porch - she was frightened, ruffled and clearly out of sorts, but looked to be in one piece.
Knowing that she needed to be protected against the coon, I coaxed her over to our old duck house (which we have never been able to get the ducks into.) She followed me willingly, placing her trust in me to keep her safe (this is what I feel worst about today - how happily and willingly she came with me after the ordeal.) I locked up the duck house and went back in to bed, thinking we had narrowly dodged a bullet. This morning, when I went to release her, she was dead. I didn't look too closely, but when my husband took her out to bury her he said her leg was nearly gone, and her thoracic cavity had been torn out. Clearly, the raccoon came back and got in the duck house with her.
We over-built the duck house, and I thought it was predator-proof...we used heavy metal grating (diamond-shaped) rather than wire, left no spaces at all in the construction. Most of the 4X8X4 structure is plywood. I have no idea how the raccoon got in, because all of the doors were still latched this morning. I am absolutely wrought with guilt. I have been crying off and on all morning, because I feel responsible for her demise. I feel worst about "rescuing" her, only to put her in an inescapable box where she would be slaughtered.
Having never had chickens before, I didn't understand what great pets they make. Marge's short time with us opened my eyes, and piqued my interest about adding chickens to our backyard menagerie. In time, after I have built the Fort Knox of all chicken coops, and after the hurting stops, I would like to get another hen or two. I know Marge was one of a kind - but can anyone suggest a breed type that is disposed to being friendly and personable like she was?