Friday, December 18, 2009

The plot (and the pile of mice) thickens.

When I went to feed my chickens this morning, I noticed that they were staying out of a corner of the chicken coop that they usually went in. I went to check it out and found this.

Like a good blogger, I went right back to the house and grabbed my camera. After I took the picture, I moved to clean them up and found even more buried under the straw.

It's the strangest thing. Apart from a few on their backs, most look like they just went to sleep.

A few more facts to help in your sleuthing. Some of these facts are included because of questions I got via email.

1) While I found the bodies this morning, I may have just missed them yesterday, as I was feeding in a hurry because I was heading to town for my girls' gymnastic class; however, the bodies were not stiff.

2) Wednesday night was a New Moon and last night was nearly a New Moon - the waxing was not visible.*

3) The barn cats leave my chickens alone. Ghandi, our big gray cat, does sleep in there with them, but he's the laziest mouser you've ever seen (this was a long time ago - as soon as we got Aradia, the calico, he quit mousing), so that's out. While I have found the odd mouse pecked to death in my chicken coop, none of these mice were pecked.

4) Weather: We had temperatures below 0 F (so *really* cold C) all last week and a bit of snow - maybe six inches - on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The temperature warmed up considerably during the day on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The temperature did drop to past freezing at night, but not lower than 20 F, so not *that* cold, and certainly not colder than the mice were used to.

5) I have found no dead birds or other small animals - just mice and voles. And really, they were mostly mice, very few voles.

6) After the chicken coop find, I searched all of our outbuildings, the garage, and under the porch. Zip.

7) We are surrounded by organic farm land, so mass poisoning was not a likely possibility. I did entertain the thought that maybe our new neighbors poisoned rodents and our cat dragged them over, but with the new find in the chicken coop, especially given its distance from the neighbor's house, I ruled it out.

My husband's theory from yesterday was that with the warmer weather and the resulting snow melt, the mice were forced out of their holes and froze to death or were easy pickings for the cats. He's ruled this out now with the chicken coop find. Those mice certainly didn't freeze to death and the cats didn't even know they were there.

My theory is an alien one - just for Danni. Have you seen Serenity? (If you haven't, you must. But then you'll get hooked on the short lived Firefly series it was based off of. Even people who hate SciFi tend to love Firefly. You can see some episodes of Firefly on Hulu right now.) In Serenity, the government puts a chemical into the atmosphere that is supposed to make the citizens more peaceful. It simply drains their will to live and they lay down right there and die. So .... my alien theory for you is that the aliens are testing their compliance drug on the mice around my house. Why choose my house? Because I have a kick-ass mouser. If I hadn't found the mice in the chicken coop, they might have gotten away with it.

Anybody have any more ideas?

*Please note that any references to the book 'New Moon' or the 'Twilight' series may permanently alter my opinion of your good taste. You are free to leave theories that have to do with Hugh Jackman Wolverine.

14 comments:

jimmycrackedcorn said...

If you hadn't said it, I wouldn't have believed it. Chickens LOVE to eat mice. Strange!

healinggreen said...

ha ha ha -- I love the serenity-mouse-link. My husband and I adore that show -- we own the whole series and the movie :)

As to other ideas -- perhaps they overate? They may have gorged themselves on the chicken grains, and then their stomaches swelled? I've seen mice die that way before.

Around here, we put suspicious wildlife deaths in the freezer and bring them to our country vet to test -- he actually sends them out to the local agricultural college who does the testing for free for vets (this way the state can track rabies, bird flu and the like). Perhaps your county has something similar? Ask your vet -- most people around here don't know about it, but it is available. We only hear back if the test turns up something...

jimmycrackedcorn said...

Even on an organic farm there are mouse poisons. Perhaps they found antifreeze open or chewed into a bottle themselves? Perhaps a part of the compost piles grew a fungus that gave them gas and killed them all? They can't burp if I have heard it right. The cat and chickens seemed to know not to enjoy any of their dead bodies.

Sarah said...

HG, so glad to find another Brown Coat! Have you seen Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog? It's pretty funny - has Nathan Fillion in it.

The chicken grain would make sense for a mouse or two in the coop, but ten? That seems like a lot at one time, and the feed has been no different. Also, that wouldn't count for the 50+ mice we found on our front porch that have no access to our grain ...

Keep the ideas coming! I hadn't considered overeating. I'm going to call our local vets and see if they'll take some.

Jimmy, I'll have my husband ask the guy that runs the land around us. It would have to be a poison that was spread on the ground because of A)the number of dead and B) we are fields away from the barn offices where they would keep bottles. If there was an antifreeze spill around, that could account for the mice around our house, but not at the chicken coop. That's ... I'll have to ask my husband, but I'd say it's 500 feet away. In light of that, I'd say the fungus is out too, since that likely wouldn't affect two different communities of mice that are separated by such a distance and several cats. Fascinating theories, though. I hadn't thought of any of those.

Oh, and the chickens left them alone - kind of seemed freaked out by them, even - but the dogs and cats ate them without hesitation.

This is kind of fun.

Maria said...

Fun? Kinda creepy if you ask me.

Perhaps they are still warm because they can't die! Did you check to make sure their claws don't retract?

:o}

Farmgirl Cyn said...

This is most bizarre, and something I would definitely let my vet know about. Odd how the cats AND the chickens don't want to eat the mice.

Kyre said...

WEIRD. That is so crazy. I would definitely try to talk a vet into examining them. All I can think that would kill so many mice at once would be some kind of virus or poison. Scary thought.

Bovey Belle said...

We've had all the hype over swine flu - this has just gotta be mouse flu . . .

chook said...

i can't help but think they have been poisoned.

Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

weird & creepy....please post if you ever get the answer to this. I'm way past curious now. ps- saw your blog link on Mary Jane's Farm forum *U*

Cindy said...

The mouse flu. HA HA. Good one. You said your dogs and cats ate the ones in the chicken coop but not the ones on the front porch? Are they showing any signs of sickness?

Conny said...

This is one mystery I'll be following! What would Sherlock Holmes make of this case??

Reading with interest...

Garden Pheenix said...

Aaaahahaha @ New Moon comment. That was great - made my day along with the fact that you like Dr. Horrible ;c)

I have no theories but that is weeeird. I'd totally take them to a vet/college type deal and find out if they can find out for you... I'd be so curious lol.

Sascha said...

I used to work at a vet clinic in NE Florida that dealt with exotic animals such as birds and reptiles. I know that iguanas and some frogs will actually freeze when it is cold enough. Their bodies go into a coma like state and when it gets warmer, they spring back to life. Its a very strange process that Vets are still studying and dont know much about how it works and which all animals can do it. Maybe these are mice that have adapted to doing this? Maybe they all piled up together to keep warm but it became too cold and they went into a hibernating coma like state? Since you said that Rigor Mortis hadnt seemed to set in, this would be a logical conclusion. The only way to test it for sure would be to bring one of them inside a warm place and see if it comes back to life. Its a thought.