Keeping henhouse raid a secret from Rob and Tara

Susan Manzke
Susan Manzke's daughter-in-law, Tara Manzke's business, Bria Bella & Co., was honored as the Small Business of the Year by the  Portage County Business Council.

I was privileged to be invited to a banquet in Stevens Point last week. It was the Portage County Business Council annual dinner. The thing that brought me to the Holiday Inn Hotel & Convention Center was the Small Business of the Year award. It was going to be awarded to Bria Bella & Co., a boutique owned by my daughter-in-law, Tara Manzke, son Rob’s wife.

This was a big deal for the Manzke family. The Portage County Business Council posted this on their website ( Bria Bella & Co. was awarded the Small Business of the Year Award for their incredible growth, which can be attributed to their strong work ethic, integrity, and collaboration, in addition to their support of the community, and an ongoing goal to provide a positive environment in their store. 

It goes on to say that Bria Bella & Company is much more than just a boutique and a brand. It is vision and a mission for Tara. That mission aims to inspire, empower and encourage women to build confidence in themselves by defining a personal style that makes them look and feel amazing. (I couldn’t say it better.)

To get to this celebration meant I had to drive to Stevens Point myself, in the evening and return home in the dark. I could have stayed over with my family but I had a doctor’s appointment the following morning that I didn’t want to change.

I wasn’t worried about my drive, but I did duck out of the festivities as soon as Tara had received her award. Leaving early meant that most of my drive would be lit from the rays of sun that just set to the west.

Susan Manzke and her son, Rob, are on hand to support daughter-in-law Tara's success on her business receiving the Small Business of the Year award in Portage County.

When I said my goodbyes, I promised to message Rob and Tara when I arrived home. They wanted to make sure I had a safe drive.

Lucky for me, traffic both going to Stevens Point and returning home was light. To keep myself company, I listened to a library book on CD.

Darkness didn’t engulf me until I was about fifteen minutes from home, by that time I was rolling through well-known territory.

As I drove the last mile I did some figuring. If I pulled up close to my chicken coop I could use my headlights to light my way to lock the coop door. Too bad that’s not exactly what happened.

When I pulled into the yard, a burly raccoon came running out of the chicken coop, and then another smaller one and then still another.

I stopped my car with my lights illuminating the inside of the coop and saw two other young raccoons scrambling up the wall.

No chickens were sitting on the roosts. A few feathers were just outside the door.          Oh no! In one evening I was chicken-less.

I messaged Rob and Tara that I had arrived home safe and sound but I didn’t tell them about my chicken calamity. They would feel that it was their fault. After all, I hadn’t been home to lock up my chickens at the regular time because I was at the banquet.

Susan Manzke's small flock of hens luckily survived a visit by a small band of raccoons in the chicken coop.

Because the two little raccoons were still hanging to the wall, I left the coop door open so they could join their mother.

Losing my four hens was sad. Wildlife interference in the country is a fact of life and death. I would miss their eggs but not winter chores taking care of my little flock.

The following morning I stepped out onto my porch. That’s when I heard a little clucking noise. My red hen was pecking around the yard, eating her breakfast.

One hen had survived! That was good news, but instantly I had my chicken chores back again. One hen meant the same amount of work as four. Still, her eggs would mean I didn’t have to buy eggs.

About five minutes later, the other three hens showed up in the yard, too. None had been eaten! We were back to normal.

These long summer days give me plenty of time to lock up my flock before darkness falls. I continue to wonder what will happen the next time I return home after dark. I guess I’ll take one day at a time. Definitely, I’m not staying home to be a chicken guard.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;