Rhode Island First Day of Issue Covers
Ratification of the Constitution - Rhode Island Bicentennial
Issued May 29, 1990 in Pawtucket, RI - Scott #2348
Stamp Design is the Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI

Hand Drawn and Hand Painted Cachet By Jeanne Horak

The Year the Vampire Bit Our Chickens
By Richie T

There was a local feed store in North Kingston that put on a special promotion one year; "Buy 50 pounds of feed and receive 50 Rhode Island Red pullets free."

I think it was in 1960; my memory is starting to slip just a little, however I believe that is about the time all of this happened. My father decided to take advantage of the offer and my brother and I were set to work building a coop and fencing it in. (We had almost two acres of land with about an acre in woods back of the house.

I thought we did a wonderful job; the shed was square without any major holes and we  put up a chicken wire  fence all the way around. In due time my father delivered the chickens and the feed and we were in business.

It was exciting watching our chickens grow, we weren't even thinking about the "Time of the Axe," which was the stated purpose of our little venture. My brother, sisters and I would take turns putting out the feed and water and keeping the pen clean.

One morning when I went out to feed the hens as usual, there was a hole dug under the fence and about 8 of the hens were laying dead on the ground. They hadn't been eaten and none of them were missing; they were just laying there. I had absolutely no idea what had gotten at them. 

When dad got home that evening we showed him the chickens and he was just as clueless as the rest of us. None of us were qualified for the "Farmer of the Year" Award.  We did notice that there were bite marks on the necks of  the dead chickens and they appeared to have been drained of their blood. (I told you it was a vampire!)

We put a trap at the hole and several others around the area in hopes of catching the intruder and I spent most of the next night close by with a 12 gage shotgun.  No luck, the intruder never showed.

About two nights later after we had relaxed our guard a bit, our vampire/predator  hit us again; this time six more chickens were dead and drained of blood with bite marks on the neck once again. 

I worked part time for Irving Hazard, an old farmer that lived just up the road. When I asked Irving what he thought could be attacking our chickens, he never hesitated. He stated, "It has to be a weasel; nothing else drains chickens like that and leaves them laying."

We never did get that weasel, but we dug a ditch 8 inches deep all the way around,  inserted our fence down into the ground and eventually we did manage to raise about a dozen of our 50 pullets to eating size.  

A related story to the vampire episode is that during this time my friends and I were searching for burrows and dens around the area where the weasel might be living. We found one hole that appeared to be in use. I put a trap at the entrance and it was either the next day or the day after, that I found the trap pulled into the hole.  I got my shotgun and told my friend Henry Tarbox to yank the trap out of the hole and then stand back so I could shoot what I felt sure was our weasel. Was I ever Wrong! It turned out to be a skunk and my friend, Henry paid the price. I avoided both Henry and his parents for some time after that.

I did take another try at raising chickens about a year afterwards; "Old Man Stahlbush" our local junk collector had 6 Chinese Bantys that he sold me for $10. I didn't have to worry about any predators getting these birds, they were very good flyers and usually roosted in the tops of our trees. They were jet black birds with purplish legs and feathers running all the way down their legs. Their spurs were huge and I believe they were originally bred as fighting birds. Five of the birds would all pick at one of the hens; they did this until they eventually killed her. (This was how I learned the real meaning of  "Hen Party" and "Hen Pecked.")

I don't think I will ever be able to eat chicken without remembering our blood sucking weasel. (And the sight of a headless chicken still staggering around after Dad took the axe to it.)

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