Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A fox in the henhouse

Two days ago we lost the big white Pekin duck, Donald (original, eh?) and two hens. We found the remains (bones picked clean and piles and piles of feathers) of the duck, nothing of the hens. Hubby was most upset about the duck because Donald was destined to be Thanksgiving dinner this year. He wandered around muttering something about the damn predators eating HIS dinner.

We thought the hawks were at it again, but this morning, I discovered the true culprit of the hen homicide.

I spotted her in the top pasture, eyeballing my fowl and scratching like mad. Obviously, Miss Red Fox is FULL of fleas. Poor thing, itchy all the time! How I know she's a she? She is a dull red and small. The males are a brilliant red and a few pounds larger. She rolled around in the dry, dusty dirt where the horses have created their very own rolling spot and eyeballed the chickens again. Then she scratched, scratched, scratched and rolled in the dirt before sitting and staring intently at my chickens pecking around for bugs and seeds in the horse poop. Obviously she enjoys dining on the fresh, well-fed breast of my hens.

So, I did what any farm girl would do when she finds the predator who has been killing the livestock.

I called my husband.

"So, what are you going to do?" he asked, like I was going to dig out the gun and shoot it or something.

"Ummm..lock the chickens up," I replied.

"We could put a trap out for her," he suggested.

"And then do what with her?" I countered, knowing full well he hadn't thought that far in advance.

No answer.

Here is my dilemma. I like letting my hens free-range. They like the bugs and the freedom. I like not having to feed them so much commercial feed AND the advantage of having fewer insects around. Plus, they are fun to watch. Those who have never spent any time just watching chickens have no idea what entertainment they are missing.

I also like having wildlife, such as Miss Red Fox, on my property. I have a serious distaste for killing such wildlife just because they are doing what comes naturally. She didn't kill my hens because she wanted to get back at me or is angry because we're here...she killed them because she's a fox and she was hungry. We are on HER land. Not the other way around. We've plopped our house and our chickens and our fences on the land that belongs to the fox and 'coons and 'possums and deer. I have no right to decide they can't live here any more simply because one of them got hungry and feasted on my chickens. I know a lot of farmers disagree with me and see no problem with aiming a .22 at her and killing her, simply because she was being a fox.

I am not anti-hunting. Killing an animal to eat it is entirely different than killing one just because it's around.

It is, however, my responsibility to make sure my livestock is protected from the predators, and that's what I'll do. I won't shoot her, I won't trap her, I won't poison her....I'll just make it harder for her to eat my hens.

So I guess I need to get my butt out there and finish putting up the chicken yard. The henhouse is done. It's fox-possum-and-coon-proof, now the yard must be wildlife-proofed as well.

And maybe the next time I see her I'll be able to enjoy her presence a little more knowing my chickens aren't next on her menu.


goatroper said...

a couple of hounds on the property should keep away unwanted predators

Jenn said...

I don't need any more dogs, especially not a fox hound! I think I'm at my limit with three dogs right now. I thought about turning Akasha loose to chase the fox off, but figured I end up with MORE dead chickens if she was on the prowl.

Xanth is too much of a wuss and would run the other way and Jasmine would play with the fox rather than chase it.

Wendy said...

Can you fully enclose the chicken yard? Otherwise, they are sitting ducks (literally!).

You got all of Mother Nature battling right in your back yard!

My hubs would get a pellet gun and scare the fox, I bet. Either that or put out food for the fox....

amy said...

I'm sorry Jenn, but it just makes me giggle endlessly that you have THREE DOGS and still have fox problems. That fox must be laughing its ass off at you!

Maybe you need more cats if the dogs aren't working. Or a llama.

Or buy more chickens.

Marriage-101 said...

Sounds like you've outsmarted the fox.

Jenn said...

Wendy...yup, that's the current project. Most of the chicken yard is done, and fully enclosed, but we need to finish the little connector from yard to henhouse.

Amy...yeah, tell me about it. I kept thinking "The Fox and the Hound," when I saw her. I just KNOW she's buddy-buddy with at least one of the dogs.

Marriage 101...I sure hope so!

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

I love your attitude towards the fox! You rock!

Rebecca said...

Don't have any advice for ya. . . closest I am to wildlife is the racoon trolling around the alley by the dumpsters at night!