Here are some of this year’s chick hatch, all different ages together in a nice little flock. They are safely within the wire and net enclosed run. That’s because we have a fox!
For most of the summer, the chicks’ house has been open so they can go out and free-range at their pleasure or come in the house to get food and water or to roost for the night. The doorway was covered with wire and had a small opening just big enough for young birds to squeeze through. That way the adult chickens could not get in. In the morning when I did chores, I would spread scratch grain in their run and call them. Soon, all the chicks would come rushing for their favorite scratch treat.
About two weeks ago while the chicks were eating their scratch, I counted them. There are supposed to be twenty-three, but one was missing. Because the birds move around quickly when they eat, I assumed I counted wrong and didn’t think much of it. Then I began to have premonitions about a fox. I shrugged them off.
Four days ago when I fed the chicks, none responded to my call. I could hear them talking in the hedges and stands of daylilies and within other cover in the yard. Suddenly, no one wanted scratch.
Then, when I went to tend the horses, I discovered the half-eaten body of one of my young black roosters in the paddock. I looked the body over and suspected a fox attack due to the nature of the injuries. That evening, rather than going to their roosts when it got dusky, the baby chickens came running to me. I’m their mother. They stood around staring at me and yammering. I took them to their house and made them go inside. It was a struggle. The young birds were afraid to go in.
That’s when I realized a predator, probably a fox, had entered their coop the night before though the small opening and stole the rooster as he slept. I counted my babies that evening and got nineteen! Oh no! I locked all their doors and reinforced the wire fence around the run.
The next morning one more little black hen was waiting outside the coop to join her siblings. She had hidden in the hedge for the night. So now I have twenty chicks. The loss of a black rooster is not such a disaster. He would have been sold for $2 otherwise. Sadly, I don’t know what other babies were stolen. Probably some lovely little pullets, knowing my luck. I’m glad to say my most prized ones are still with us and not fattening some nasty fox.
Also that morning I discovered the three most recent rabbit graves, one about two weeks old and two dating back to spring, had been newly dug up overnight. It was obviously the work of either a fox or small dog by the size of the holes. So, I’m pretty sure it’s a fox. There was nothing edible in the graves. That didn’t stop the creature from digging them up again the next night. Now they are weighted with rocks.
All the chickens must now spend most of the day penned up. I have no idea when this fox may try another sortie against my birds. They are allowed to free-range for about two hours in the evening while I and the German shepherds are outside. So far no fox has shown its face. The older birds are indignant about the restrictions, but the younger one actually seem relieved. They happily go to roost in their safe, locked-up house at night. During the day they act content to be within the protective wire of the run.
Watch out, Mr. or Mrs. Fox. Your days are numbered. If I see the animal in the yard, I will get rid of it for good.