July 12, 2006

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Some Chickens and a Fox...

Although I know it's a fact of life, it's one I really resist accepting: If you raise chickens and you let them free range, there will be problems with predators. And today there was.

Earlier this spring we lost a couple of chickens to what I thought was a fox, but which several men at the school next door were certain was a coyote. Now I most definitely don't live in a rural area. We live next to our town's high school, seven tenths of a mile from Main Street, with plenty of houses right around us. BUT, there are also a few remaining fringes of woods.

I let the chickens out of their house and pen early each morning, and if I know I'm going to be away for more than a downtown errand, I put them back in the pen. But this morning I didn't even think about it as I'd had overnight company, an early run to the airport, and I left the house when the rest of my company did, about 10 am.

Without hesitation I knew what had happened when I turned into the yard an hour later. Seven of the hens were clustered by a lilac in the front yard, hyper-alert but at the same time... frozen. The only other time I'd seen them act like that was earlier in the spring when that hungry mother coy-fox stopped by for a hot chicken dinner.

Sure enough, red feathers all over the back yard, very, very upsetting. I managed to gather the remaining girls back into their pen and found that we'd lost one Rhode Island red and one of my two beloved aracunas. I wondered, I worried... had a dog come through the yard or was it the same earlier predator?

A beautiful small fox with a white-tipped tail circled the chicken pen this afternoon and I had my answer. And I honestly feel better for knowing. Somehow, it's less painful to think that a hungry wild animal did what it's beeen doing for centuries rather than a dog just... playing.

But it's still painful.


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