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 still...my 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.