After working late last night (hosting a happy hour…rough, I know), my plan was to sleep in a bit this morning (nice and late…until 7ish). My sleep was interrupted around 6:30 when Taz started barking his head off. He’s great a crying wolf, so I put a pillow over my head and rolled over to try to sleep a bit more. But, he would not stop. He was losing.his.mind. I groaned and got out of bed to tell him to knock it off. As I came down the stairs I could see the piles of feathers in the yard and hear the chaos of terrified chickens.
After years of having chickens, I’ve learned that there are lots of things that want to eat your chickens—bears, foxes, skunks, coyotes, weasels, hawks, your FIL’s dog—so as I was standing there in my pj’s, I was searching the yard desperately to see what I was up against. At our old house, our chickens were an acre away (not a unit of distance, I know) at the top of a hill and we couldn’t see when they were under attack. Now, they’re 100 feet away, so we bear full witness to their demise. I spent this fall chasing a hawk off our chickens (literally, I actually hit it at one point), so I figured that’s what was out there, and then I saw it.
Standing in the middle of our yard, with a chicken hanging from its mouth, was a fox. I went sprinting out the front door like a crazy person, barefoot, in my pajamas, screaming at the fox and looking for anything I could find to scare it away. I found a few rocks to throw at it and charged it. It looked at me, casually dropped the chicken (who ran off into the woods), and trotted away. It was clearly not worried about me. Realizing I couldn’t chase down a fox barefoot, I ran inside, threw on my pastel LL Bean Wellies, and ran back out to defend my flock. I was going for drama there, was that dramatic?
The fox had looped around the house and was going in for the kill again by the coop. I kept charging at it, throwing rocks, and shouting, and it really couldn’t care less. It would drop whatever chicken it grabbed, run around the house, and come back for more. At one point, while I standing there throwing rocks and shouting, it was chasing a chicken directly at me and we ended up less than 10 feet apart. That fox has some cojones, man.
I finally chased it down the road, but as it was running off, it found a chicken in the woods and carried away. Sad face. I figured it was distracted for a few minutes, so ran in to grab my phone and call TimTheFarmer, who was on a tractor. As I made laps around the house looking for the fox, rock in hand, TimTheFarmer shouted at me to get the rifle (remember, he was on a tractor, so I couldn’t hear him). Ummm…all the sudden I had all sort of excuses about how things were totally under control. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with the idea of doing what we need to do, and I’m a good shot, but the problem is that I never pay attention when whomever I’m shooting with shows me how to load the gun. I pay attention long enough to safely load the gun while I’m doing target practice, but the minute we’re done, that knowledge totally goes flying out one ear. Don’t rely on me when the zombies come. I decided to stick to my rocks, and try to round up the chickens.
At one point, it seemed like we were down to 4 chickens. I couldn’t find any more, and given how balsy the fox was about grabbing them (he grabbed 4 different ones while I was chasing him around), I figured we’d had a massacre. I slowly lured each chicken I could find back to coop (and told the chicks in the brooder to thank their lucky stars we hadn’t gotten around to getting them outside yet…they’d be toast). As I did, other chickens started to emerge from the woods. Most were too spooked for me to pick them up, but the one back there on the grill was happy to hitch a ride back to the coop. I eventually recovered 11, which means that jerkface fox only got two.
For now, they’re all safely locked in the coop and TimTheFarmer just got home to set up the electric fence. We used to always have them fenced in, but over the winter we let them totally free range, and they were happy has clams…or free ranging chickens. Clearly it’s time to set the electric fence back up and hope they stay in. Right now, Otis and I are on lookout patrol.
And, it’s time to destroy the nearby fox den, which should prevent him from coming back. We learned this a couple years ago when chickens kept disappearing. It turns out that foxes only build dens once a year and that they build a couple dens. If you can destroy the closest den, they’ll often retreat to their other dens and leave you alone. To destroy a den, you need break it up/demolish it, and —and this is gross, but effective—urinate on and around it to establish that it’s not their territory any longer. This is what boys are for. We’ll also hang some vinegar-soaked sock balls around the coop area which also can keep foxes away.
Is it bad that as I was chasing away a fox with one of our chickens in its mouth, I thought, “Well, at least this will be a good story for the blog.”?