The goddamn fox is at it again. Had I known that keeping chickens alive was so, ummmm, impossible, I probably never would’ve gotten them. But as it turns out, I was somewhat ignorant and we ended up getting some anyway. The first time we lost hens, it was due to a dog, the next three times, it was a raccoon, then the bobcat, then the skunk…finally, the fox arrived…and she has yet to leave. We’ve been through three of her litters, we’ve killed one of her kits, we’ve lost over two dozen hens….she won’t give up.
The first time we lost chickens, it was because of our neighbor’s dog. I went out to feed them and they weren’t there. I looked around the neighborhood foolishly thinking they had merely escaped and gone for a walk. It wasn’t long before I found the culprit: a Siberian Husky lying in a yard with about a half dozen chicken carcasses surrounding it. It had begun; our constant struggle to keep our egg layers alive and laying eggs….we had no idea what we were in for.
The next time we got hens, we thought we had created a predator-proof pen. In fact, I still couldn’t tell you how it happened. All we know is that there were raccoon tracks and chicken feathers scattered throughout the yard in the morning. They wouldn’t take more than they could eat at any one time, so we would only be missing one or two hens after each visit. Lucky for us, raccoons are easy to catch – we borrowed a trap from DOW and caught 3-4 raccoons in a couple of weeks. We ended up shooting them since they were nasty, nasty little creatures. They barked and hissed so much that it made my husband nervous when he shot at them, frequently causing him to miss. In fact, I was awfully tempted to try and make hats out of the skins, but all those holes would’ve made for some shitty head coverage.
The Bobcat was easily the most daring of our predators thus far. I remember the first night she showed up, and then the following morning, and that same afternoon. We saw her several times in the first week; she was beautiful and sleek, powerful and deadly. I almost enjoyed seeing her come across our lawn only to steal a hen and slink off, but after the sixth attack, we had to put a stop to it. My husband only had to take a couple of shots at her and she was smart enough not to return.
I wish the skunk’s story was as open and closed as the previous three. Truth is, the skunk is almost as formidable an adversary as the fox. Not only do they kill and eat our chickens, but they spray our dogs as well. Dulcie was last sprayed about six months ago and while I think we’ve tried every remedy known to man, she still smells like a skunk whenever she gets wet. They randomly come and go smelling up the house and eating a few chickens, but they DO NOT fall for baited traps or anything we’ve been able to think up to this day.
Then the fox arrived. She was sly and cunning, clever and quick. Although we’ve seen her during the day, she mostly strikes at night. I honestly don’t remember much about the first few attacks – the fox would come at night while we were sleeping and we would be missing a hen or two the following morning. Then she got brave, she struck in the middle of the day while we were away from the house. She killed 24 hens, 2 ducks, and 6 turkeys. The surrounding streets were littered with feathers, all of our neighbors came by to offer their condolences, as it was painfully obvious that we were under attack. She came back the following afternoon with one of her kits and my husband shot it in the eye, killing it. We thought she would take heed and lay off our chickens….and she kind of did, for about a week.
Instead of coming after our chickens at night, she spent a week mourning the loss of her kit. She did so by coming to our bedroom window every night around 3 am and howling and yipping for about an hour. It actually took us a little bit to figure out what in the hell was making all that noise, but when we looked out the window to see the lone fox sitting there in the dark, it didn’t surprise us much. After what we assume was the obligatory week long mourning period, she resumed her nightly raids on our flock.
Slowly, this fight was becoming personal. Eating my chickens is one thing, but disturbing my sleep is a whole different thing entirely. The days were beginning to blur and run together. I seem to remember hearing my husband tell someone, “Last night was the first night in weeks that my wife didn’t wake me at three am, hand me the gun, and tell me to go save the chickens from that goddamn fox.” It’s true; it had become a nightly ritual that we could practically set our clocks by. It’s 3 am; do you know where your husband is? Ummm, yeah, mine’s the one in his boots and tye-dye underwear, holding a gun, chasing a fox, and cussing under his breath.
So it went on like this for a while. She would come and have a late night snack, Brian would chase after her with the gun, then the following day, we would reinforce the coop in any way we could think of. Then, after a while, she just stopped coming. I guess we finally figured out how to keep her out of the coop and she gave up. I mean, as entertaining as it must have been for her to disturb our sleep every night, her babies had to eat, and we were no longer an easy target. It has been about a year since we last saw her, but we’ve just lost two hens in one week. It’s easy to assume it’s the fox even though a mountain lion and a few bears have been spotted in our neighborhood recently. So, it was an all too familiar feeling tonight after dinner when I handed my husband the gun and told him that I thought I heard a strange noise coming from the chicken coop. Due to the recent sightings, he took our dog, Dulcie, out with him to check things out. As far as I know, it went something like this: they made it half way down the hill to check on the chickens, one of them slipped and bumped into the other, causing them both to jump several feet in the air and yelp, then hightail it back to the house, wide-eyed and panting….sorry chickens, looks like you’re on your own tonight….