This morning as I was getting food for my chickens in the coup I glanced up to see a mommy mouse not 6 inches from my face on the shelf above the feed bins. I screamed. She, with one baby in her mouth, turned and ran into the bag of cedar chips with her other babies clinging to her underside. As I filled the chicken feeders I could hear her rustling in the cedar chip bag then I watched as she jumped out to climb the inner wall of the coup with all her babies still clinging to her. She dropped the baby she had in her mouth as she ascended the beam, seemingly struggling to pull the weight of her and her family up.
Upon reaching where the beam met the roof she stopped and looked over her shoulder at me; I took the look as another mother might as a plea for help or pity. As she looked at me she let go and fell into the cedar chips. I listened for a minute and hearing no sound, gently pushed the bag open. She sat looking at me with her large dark eyes and twitching ears. I realized the babies were stuck fast because they were suckling her underbelly oblivious of the trauma their mother was a victim of. The baby that she had dropped wriggled slowly towards her and she reached with her tiny arms to pull it close under her.
Suddenly as I stood motionless watching; another large mouse that I assumed was the father, bound from the cedar chips leaping to the cross beam and scudding back and forth twice, then down to the floor, into a hole and out of sight. My initial reaction was that he was abandoning his family but then I decided he seemed to make a spectical of himself and might have been trying to distract my attention from his family.
Normally I kill mice. I have done it a few ways in the past depending on my mood; some violent, and some dismissive. I tossed one in a bucket of water to drown, I have hit them with shovels, I have shot them with my be-be gun (not an easy task!); and thrown them to the chickens, which believe it or not can be quite interesting to watch as the chickens will sometimes “play” with the mice before one of them gets the idea to eat it. They will toss it in the air and run to catch it, they will run like rugby teams with the mouse as the ball, grabbing it from each other and dashing about. Chickens can be quite playful with moving toys, and carnivorous.
Today I felt different, I had no desire to hurt this mouse or her babies, so I decided to take the re-location route. I grabbed a bucket and gently scooped her and her family into it. Leaving the coup I looked around the yard, considering the options for relocation: the flower bed might be nice, but I have seen lots of snakes this year and she would have to find a home while caring for the babies and that would put them at risk. The woodpile was covered and close to the house, but there is a small chipmunk that lives there and my son would go crazy if he found out I put a mouse near the house.
I set the bucket down and worked to finish my chores considering the other options, and also thinking about the mouse that had run away. What if he came back and his family was nowhere to be found? Would she miss him and wonder what happened to him as she raised their babies? I know there are those that consider it wrong to humanize animals; but I have done this my whole life. I have different voices that I use to speak on behalf of what I think my dogs are thinking, I cluck and coo good morning to my chickens, and softly mouth love words to my horses soft face as she closes her eyes and breathes deeply on me with her warm, moist, horsy breath.
I made a decision to return my lady mouse to the coup. I made a small box into a nest – filling it with a handful of birdseed, and a small rag, cut a hole for a door and set it back on the shelf right where I had first seen her. I gently tipped the bucket so the family could slide out onto the shelf. The mother immediately scurried about looking for a place to hide. Finding nothing she turned and saw the hole in box and dashed inside! Success!! As I stood motionless watching her, she poked her nose out to gently take the two babies that had fallen off her during the bucket dump into her mouth and move them into the box. Then she disappeared into the darkness of the small box home.
Later that morning I went out to check on her. Shining my phone flashlight into the box door, I saw a pile of chips wiggling in the back corner. It made me so happy to know that were safe. I texted my kids not to touch the box under penalty of mom. When I went out after lunch to check again the box was empty. I assumed that the bright light had triggered fear and she had moved them to a safe unknown spot. I would have done the same! I placed a small handful of grain in the floor behind the feed bins so she would have easy access to food. I suppose I was feeling sad about some of the events in my life, and wanted to show grace to another being on this earth. What you reap you will sow.