No sooner do I post a loving tribute to our laying hens than do we have a fox to reckon with. Late in the afternoon yesterday, I saw "That One" running and squawking like a crazed chicken in front of the house. I ran out to the porch, heard lots of commotion, and in a split second, caught a glimpse of a fox near the far end of the garden. I sent Aki after the fox, who barely breathed in that direction before the intruder hopped the fence and got chased away by the neighboring llamas. I saw the Wallflower hiding in the corner of the porch. She was missing some tail feathers and bleeding a bit on her side. I ran like a mad woman - bare-footed and baby-in-arms - toward the chickens' pasture. I saw Tiny and a couple hens near the barn. I feared the rest were gone, and called the dogs in to help me search. They dove in the pond, finding one perched high on the garden fence and another completely in the water. I couldn't get to her right away, and worried she may drown. Aki helped nudge her to the shore. The two other Pilgrims were hiding in the bush by the house - bare-bottomed, but alive. After some time scouring the property, Little Red appeared from behind the wood pile, and finally 3 more were found hiding. Two of the Orpingtons were still unaccounted for, and one we found lifeless in the field, later carried ever so gently in Aki's mouth and placed at our feet; The other presumably taken away by the fox.
Most of the chickens were half-wet, and it seems they jumped into the pond trying to escape the attack. Tiny's feathers are strewn about in several places - our good boy put up a good fight. And all the remaining 11 have a good chance at healing up from the ordeal - all can walk, one has a deeper wound that I'll look after, but none seem maimed or stressed beyond their capacity to cope. How very far this farming thing stretches me, though, to the brink of my capacities.
As we were in the field frantically looking for our hens, and thinking what to do with the injured ones, I had this moment of pause where I looked at the calmness all around me - the stillness of the trees, the quiet humming of nature, the distant neighbor's horses heading in for their supper - and I almost wanted to break that encompasing peace by crying out, "Doesn't anyone realize what just happened here?!" How can life all around go on so normally, so quickly? I suppose that's how anyone suffering a loss must feel. Nature changes and adapts, while I look for a reason and grasp at controlling the untamed, fueled by the pains of guilt. Even the hens themselves were back to normal a mere hour or two after the ordeal, as they foraged about, scratched at the grain I threw down as a treat, and preened themselves. Do they remember, I wonder? Is this a gift given to non-human animals; the ability to learn from experiences, but somehow quickly forget the details? For all but that brief moment, I feel in the details is where I perhaps linger far too often.