Friday, July 20, 2012

losing to a fox


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.

30 comments:

  1. Jaime, I am so sorry. We are just not able to process well, sudden violence against things we love, are we? The balance comes back, but it's so upsetting. I am sorry for the loss of your lovely hens. I'm glad the rest are recovering - is there any chance you can set traps for the fox, or would it be a problem with the dogs?

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    1. Thanks so much, Susan. Yes, we do have a live trap set up - no luck catching anything yet....

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  2. every time there is some sort of an attack on creatures, it takes me forever to shake off the fear and anxiety i feel when i go to check on them. i always assume i will find one dead or maimed or being attacked (as i have been the one to come across each of these scenarios). lingering in the details. i get it completely.

    of course, the attacks always seems to happen at night (last one was two neighboring dogs attacking one of our kids... all ended up fine) and so i lay in bed holding my breath waiting for the sound of distressed animals. those nights of violence, i need to remind myself, are rare. flukes even. and our homestead is increasingly secure (ironically bc of them) so they should become even rarer.

    love to you and yours.

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  3. also, what breed of dog is aki?

    (emily at adenverhomecompanion dot com)

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    1. Thank you, Emily, for your words of understanding, Aki is a mixed-breed rescue dog. We know his mother was a German shepherd (and he does have the mannerisms of that breed), and we were told he's also part Akita. He has a very dominant personality and is very smart, so we've worked a lot with him to channel those traits into "jobs" for him. He's a wonderful pup!

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  4. Oh, no! I am sorry to hear about your poor chickens! I'm glad the survivors are seeming to take it in stride. I remember having similar amazement at the ability of animals to resume normal life after trauma when my sister's dog had to have its leg amputated. He was up and down the stairs less than three days later. I thought of how long it would take me to regain my independence following such an event.

    I think that "Doesn't anyone realize what just happened here?!" happens with both the good and the bad. Somehow it feels like the whole world should share your distress or your elation. Its interesting, isn't it.

    I hope everyone heals up quickly!

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  5. Oh, I know that sickening feeling so well. We lost 17 in one awful night last year, the thing that made me so angry was that it was all about the kill, the foxes didn't need that many...I hope a bit of peace returns to your world.

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    1. Sorry to hear of your loss as well. I read that sometimes the chickens' frantic flapping triggers the foxes' hunting instinct into overdrive. All very natural, but no less upsetting for us!

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  6. Sorry to hear about your chickens, but happy to hear the ones who survived are doing well. We are new to chicken keeping and I am not looking forward to our first encounter like this one.

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    1. It does come with the territory, but I still can't imagine not keeping chickens. Wishing you all the best with your flock!

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  7. I feel for you...between the foxes that took up residence at the end of our laneway, a bold raccoon, and we think a weasel, we lost most of our flock this Spring, including 9 chicks. Heartbreaking doesn't even sum it up. We don't own a gun or a dog, and haven't needed to in our two years of chicken-raising. We now keep our remaining 5 cooped up (which breaks my heart, too), until we can figure out a good way to protect them. We're experiencing a drought which makes me wonder if that's why the predators have been so much more bold this year than others. Glad to hear you saved some of your flock.

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    1. Oh no, sorry for your tragic loss. I've wondered the same thing about the drought bringing animals closer in....

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  8. I'm so sorry. Just yesterday a neighbor's dog killed one of our chickens. The first words out of my mouth when my husband told me was, "I hope it wasn't Pearl!" Why out of the 26 free-range chickens that we have, did it have to be my nine-year-old's favoritest, specialist chicken that she likes to pet and bring special treats to? Aaargh, these thing are never easy, we had a tear-filled chicken funeral....

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  9. It's never easy is it? We are not home enough to keep chickens (although I would like to). So it's probably a good thing because I'm not so sure I could handle that aspect of the food chain. There are a couple of fox that live in the hood. The gimpy one used to use my yard as a cut through. Then we fenced the yard and got dogs. I still see them occasionally...

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    1. I've seen foxes before behind our property, but never this close. We've been keeping the dogs inside more during the day because of the heat, and I wonder if that's what gave this fox the opportunity to venture in. We're well-fenced, but I'm not sure it's possible to be 100% preditor-proof; it's mostly just trying to put up enough obstacles to deter them.

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  10. I am so sorry for your loss. I understand the guilt and overall upheaval things like this take on you all too well. Thank goodness you were there and saw the dang thing - there might have been far worse damage otherwise.

    Hugs to you.

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  11. I'm so sorry about your chickens Jaime! :(
    I've only lost a couple over the years and one of them was to my own dog! I keep my chickens in a large fenced and covered yard now.

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  12. Oh, so sorry! I know you feel terrible for your little chickens. I hope all the survivors are doing ok.

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  13. we lost one of ours about a month back. it's hard. and I got a call from my sister who lost about 4 or 5 just two days ago. sounds like your dogs are wonderful friends to your chickens. I cannot believe the nudging her to the edge of the pond. heart. sigh.

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  14. Hello Jaime, what a sad way to start reading on your post!.. But yes, our creatures do show us an idealistic way to cope. I've been just planning how to set up our chicken coop to best protect from the foxes - and I've heard so many stories nearby of chickens being taken, but can't help the urge to keep some to look after! Must say, your dogs seem like beautiful, beautiful creatures!! I hope ours is just as lovely when we get our chickens. Take care. Sarah

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  15. Awww Jaime....so so sorry to read of this post and your raw emotion...i fear coming out in the morning to a fox attack...your experience makes me more so...big hugs to you lovely xxx

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  16. So sorry Jaime. This post is absolutely beautiful, a true picture of the harshness and brutality that are part of nature, and farming. I am glad you found a moment in the calm of it.

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  17. Sorry for the loss of some chickens. What a great post about farm life. Sad, but oh so true! Hope the fox goes away, and leaves your chickens alone.

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  18. Thank you, friends, for taking the time to share your own stories and for your sweet, sweet words. I've read them many times over, and it certainly helps to know others can relate to our experience.

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  19. I'm so sorry Jaime. Foxes are always at the back of our minds here, it's such a hard line - to give your birds a quality of life and freedom to roam versus keeping them protected to preserve their life. Hugs to you. xx

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  20. I'm so sorry, that is horrible. I hope they all recover quickly!
    Angela Kelly

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