16 May 2013

Fox In The Hen House

Nothing makes one feel more inadequate than a fox in the hen house.
Escapees!
The chicks were growing nicely, Checkers was recovering but the water trough keeping them warm in the garage was feeling too small.  The last straw was when Jack found them roosting on his tool box.  He reinforced his dislike for indoor hens (and I don't blame him) and reminded me they needed to go outside.
We'd been casually working on a fenced area for the girls but with the warmer weather and their rather brazen attempts at escape, the time had come to move.  I'd pounded in posts, lined it with coated, galvanized steel fencing, lined that with hardware cloth and then lined that with a boarder of rocks.  At the end of the day, I was weary but satisfied I'd done my work well.
Everyone enjoying scratching around outside.
There had been news of a fox in the neighborhood and my mom and Evelyn spotted it unabashedly trotting about in the daytime.  Still, I was sure the hens were safe.
Finding their food and water in their new coop.
The first indication of trouble came entirely too late.  Glinda and Rosie, two of the other hens who'd traveled with Checkers but who hadn't been particularly kind to her had been living quietly in the dog run.  The fence was sturdy but one night, as I locked up and brought the cats in to be fed, I ignored that little voice that warned me to shut the gate to our backyard.  I reasoned that there was another gate where the hens were staying.  The next day, I noticed Glinda and Rosie were missing as I washed the dishes.  I ran outside to find nothing but a pile of feathers.  The fox had slipped right through the dog run gate.  If I had listened to that still, small voice the night before, I'd still be getting fresh eggs.
I was livid.  Not entirely at the fox but myself.  I was determined to keep the rest of the girls safe so I checked them frequently to make sure they were all accounted for.  I began to relax a little, thinking the fox had been frustrated and had given up trying to get the remaining hen and chicks until I sat at the computer one afternoon and heard Snickers spitting and hissing at a strange dog-like noise.  I raced downstairs to find Snickers atop our garbage can, chased there by the rascally fox.
In my slippers, I ran outside, yelling at the cunning beast who just trotted away, stopped and smirked at me.  If I could have gotten my hands on him, I'd have strangled him for sure.  Through neighborhood gossip, I found out someone in the nearby likes to feed lunch meat to the creature from his porch.  It explained the fox's lack of fear and coming out in the middle of the day right up to our house.
Our crazy chicken lady herding the chicks.
Making sure Snickers was safe, my thoughts immediately turned to the chicks and their caretaker hen.  I ran to the back.  "Here, chick chick-ee!" but no one answered.  I went in to find only a few feathers left as evidence that I'd even had chicks.
Checkers and Kate watching each other.
I would be a liar if I said I didn't bawl my eyes out.  My eyes still sting with tears when I think of it.  I was so frustrated, felt so useless and felt like all of my effort had been in vain.  To top it off, that fox had been so greedy, decimating my entire flock of nine hens in a matter of days!  I'm not quite sure what I am supposed to have learned from this life lesson other than that foxes are naughty and so keen and intelligent.  I thought I already knew that.
Checkers kept an eye on everyone to the very end.
I'm still not sure where the fox got in the hen house.  I walked the perimeter of the fence and found no spots dug up or stones unturned.  It is utterly perplexing.  One thing is for sure though--the next time I get chickens--with a dog, a trap, electric wire, somehow--I'll be ready for that sneaky fox.

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