Then it moved.
I brushed away some of the debris, took a closer look and this is what I found.
A small salamander covered in crud... and kitty litter.
How this tiny creature got from the kitty litter, which is in a separate room, to the top of the chickens' feed bin is completely beyond me.
Even more amazing is that she got past the chickens. (Those hens are fierce carnivores, given half the chance.)
I washed her off and at first I though she was a blue spotted salamander.
On closer inspection, I'm wondering if it's a Jefferson salamander,which is currently listed as "Threatened" under both provincial and federal wildlife acts.
Jeffersons have especially long toes and can release an ooze-like substance when threatened.
This one was certainly sticky as I tried to rinse her off and just look at those toes!
But it does seem somewhat out of its usual range. Most Jeffersons are concentrated in southwestern Ontario, around the southern portion of the Niagara Escarpment and the western portion of the Oak Ridges Moraine. (For all your non-Ontarians, that's about three to four hours west of here.)
Regardless of what kind of salamander she is, I'll keep her only until the kids get home from school so they can help me re-home her -- on the edge of the woodland, close to the stream and ponds, amongst the leaf litter. At least that's where I think she'll go, though I'm not up on the the standard 'endangered salamander release protocol'. Google is no help either.
Unfortunately if it is a Jefferson, they're quite particular about their habitat, which is why they're under threat -- largely due to habitat loss and degradation due to urban development. They don't typically travel far from their birthplace, which makes this barn discovery even more odd. Stranger yet, this isn't a fluke discovery -- each spring I find a one or two salamanders in the barn, which is nowhere near the woodland or the wetland. However, the well that feeds our barn is down by the pond, so perhaps they make their way up through the drain.
It's all a big mystery and I hope this wee creature takes to its new home. But then again, anyplace is better than living in the chicken coop!
* * *After school photo update: