Today I had a visitor. Mr. Fox came into my yard at 11 and by the time he left 15 minutes later I had lost three of my chickens. I can’t tell you how frustrated and angry I was. After years of having a working rule that my chickens never free range before 10, I learned that life happens. It made me frustrated. I also was reminded to listen and that life and death are only a few breaths apart. It made me angry.
Today I was busy with work and I did not spring the birds until quarter to 11. My little terrier went out with me. He was constantly sniffing the air, and spending time marking. I became impatient with him. I had work that was waiting and scolded him telling him I had no time for this doggie nonsense. (in retrospect these were signs I should have recognized as something not right that I missed.) The dog and I headed inside and settled in my office. Just 15 minutes later I heard what sounded like my chickens heading by my office window making noises that told me something was not right. I headed out leaving the dog inside, instinct told me this was not a place for my little dog with a big heart. I found the chickens all in the coop on high roosts. I counted them up and realized I was missing three birds. I would find two of the three carcasses. The fox spent the rest of the day coming back and challenging me for more birds. I kept them in their run, but was constantly checking on their safety to ensure the fox did not breach that barrier. To be honest if I could have ensured a clean shot I would have eliminated the varmint. Unfortunately I did not have the skill or tool to do so. So I am going to be fighting this battle for days to come fox vs. chicken safety.
We were planning on butchering this weekend. As a result of the birds I lost, my plans for what I will keep and what will go to the freezer has changed. The fox got the barred rock, the dark Brahma, and the Norwegian Jaehorn. I now plan to butcher the leghorn, the austrolorp and the silver laced wyandotte. We will keep two speckled Sussex, buff Brahma, buckeye, buff orpington and Easter egger. A couple of them look like they may be going into a molt. If so I may keep less than six.
I wish I had felt I had the time to photograph Mr. Fox. His coat was beautiful and truly a handsome specimen. I would love to be sharing that with you. But my job was to protect my little flock of livestock. So I screamed, chased and threw rocks. My dog barked and marked. I suspect that this will be my job for days to come. My plans for my flock have changed all because of a visit from Mr. Fox.