Thursday, July 7, 2011

he has it covered, sort of


It all started yesterday afternoon as I worked in my studio...maybe it was too peaceful. I was startled out of colouring mode by the sound of my husband's chair shooting violently across the wood floor in his office. Suddenly the chickens were in an uproar of panicked clucking. There was shouting and clapping. By the time I got to the window, I had missed everything.

I saw puzzled goats huddled high up on their sleeping platform in the lean-to. I saw our German Shepherd tearing around under a pine tree with his nose to the ground and his tail high in the air - a high tail means business! So what was afoot?

I dashed downstairs and out the door my husband had left flung open. Not a sound from the chickens now, just eerily husband was nowhere in site. I was grabbing shoes when my husband appeared from the forest by the house and panted "fox". Well that explained everything!

 Mark (my husband, tired of typing husband over and over) filled me in. He was at his computer in his office when he saw a movement on the front lawn. A fox was running after our free ranging hens.Several hens dashed to a pine tree right in front of the barn and the goat paddock. The fox disappeared under the low boughs after them. Mark by now was in hot pursuit clapping and shouting. The scared fox darted back out and headed towards the woods. It did not have a chicken. Mark was now chasing the fox. You know, to scare it so badly that it won't return. :-) I am very sorry I missed this bit. LOL

The dog was keen on the scent of the fox at first but being old and wise he decided that his 'dad' was messing up the hunt by making all that noise. He quickly realized there were chickens out in the yard somewhere...we nabbed the second predator and got him back to the house. :-)

It took us a while to find all of the panicked chickens so we could do a head count. There were lots of feathers stuck in the branches of the pine tree and it was unclear if the fox had already been here and had returned for a second one.

Now that the initial raid was past, Roosty was having fits (Roosty is our rooster, if that isn't obvious. He is a beautiful Barred Plymouth Rock, honestly that is the only reason we kept him. He is gorgeous, this is what happens when an artist farms, beauty probably counts more than it should!) Roosty was doing his job of corralling his hens to a safe spot inside the goat field, tucked into the base of some raspberry shrubs.

All the hens are okay. This time...The fox will return.

Fox tracks are here all winter and one can see where they come right up to the barn and around the house. This spring we could hear the foxes barking close by so I have no doubt the den isn't far. We have seen a fox too but it hasn't been bold enough to strike. Our neighbour saw two foxes the other day in the afternoon and called us to warn us. Mark said that the fox was thin and it is no doubt a mom with kits. (I actually had a moment of weakness and tried to think of some food I could put out for her.Yeah, I know, it was only for a moment.)

The fox family leaves scat near the barn so the turf gets claimed. Andy, our dog, then reclaims it. :-) 

The hens are spooked today and Roosty is ever more vigilant. He no doubt thinks he has it covered, easy to assume when you are behind the safety of a fence! The chickens are in 'lock down' which means they are confined to the goat pasture, lean-to area and hen house. Which is pretty terrific really. Even if given the chance today, I doubt they would wander far  - for the ones who had to fly up into the tree, the memory of the fox below won't soon be forgotten.

No doubt we will lose a hen or hens to some kind of predator eventually. When we first got chickens, everyone felt compelled to share their stories of how their hens got killed by raccoons, hawks, coyotes, foxes, dogs, you name it. We bought extra chicks for a bit of insurance and built a Fort Knox of chicken houses. Expensive small grid fencing, the works...and then we let them free range in the daytime. :-)

So today, it is once again quiet in the studio, Roosty is on patrol, the dog is dreaming of prey and all is good.


Ester Roi said...

I so enjoy these little windows into your life, Teresa. Keep them going - they are delightful - and you are a wonderful writer

Teresa Mallen said...

Ah Ester, you are so kind. Thank you. The chickens are fine today, no mutant eggs as a result of the trauma. :-) Quiet is good.

Jeanette said...

Ah the joys of keeping chickens. Glad all are safe and sound and the flap is over. We have had problems with foxes here. Sometimes they would try to go into the barn and one took an adult Embden goose once. I know they're hungry and are doing what they are designed to do, but its frustrating when it happens on your own turf.

I had a Barred Rock rooster and half a dozen BR hens, very pretty things. They use the nape feathers of them for flies for fishing apparently.

Billie Ray (my nephew named all my initial little flock after country singers (rolling eyes))turned out to be a nasty rooster and liked to rule humans as well as the flock.

I would have to go into the pen to collect eggs with a broom in one hand to keep him at bay. I haven't had any luck with roosters and just would not have another, no matter how handsome they are. So I shall admire your boy from afar!

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Jeanette, Billie Ray eh? Now I don't feel so goofy about 'Roosty'. Roosty is a wuss, he is scared of the baby goats. When the girls free range, he usually hangs back and spends the day in the safe zone. As for fertilizing eggs, well he just hasn't got the knack for that either! :-) Like I said in the post, good thing his is a fine looking fellow. But yes, roosters are often very nasty. One wrong move from him and well, he will have just made the German Shepherd's day. LOL

Ann said...

I'm glad everyone survived but oh boy, farm life sounds awfully stressful!

Jennifer Rose said...

exciting stuff! he is a gorgeous rooster, and yeah us artists do tend to keep around the pretty things lol

i remember my uncle had to chase one of his roosters away with a 4by4 as it was attacking people o.0

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Ann, not so much stressful as 'exciting'! :-) Never seems to be too many dull moments - yesterday a snooping goat kid got her head stuck between some boards in the barn. She was fine and quickly rescued.

Jennifer Rose, everyone seems to have a nasty rooster story! I am sure your uncle didn't keep that rooster around too long. Usually a tough old bird can be redeemed with a brine soak before slow roasting or they can make a nice soup stock. Being mean has consequences! :-)

Kendra said...

Love your adventures and glad everything turned out ok! Roosty would make a great subject for a colored pencil piece!

Teresa Mallen said...

I agree Kendra. I'm thinking of doing some very small pen/ink/cp drawings of the farm critters on some card stock that I have. Like most artists my mind swirls with ideas but oh to find the time!