A high price to pay

I have been keeping chickens for over seven years now. This year I have been hit the hardest by predators. The toll is at 11 birds, leaving me with 32 at my last count.   I need to recount today, seeing as how I believe we had a “near” hit.

It was just before 6am and I was in bed; I think I was asleep, but perhaps not.  I heard my chickens becoming hysterical, and so did my Great Danes. I jumped to the floor and dashed down the stairs just in time to see the fox clearing the wild roses growing over the four foot fence in the back yard. This I have not seen yet; that is, the fox clearing the fence bordering a good bit of our back yard. My husband had witnessed this a few weeks ago. I walked outdoors to get a better look at the chicken yard and to see if I could tell what, if anything, had happened. The chickens where mostly still in the chicken coop. And boy did they have the alarm sounding! (If you keep chickens you know the exact sound I am talking about) They were no longer hysterical, but were on high alert. What I saw was the full size door that enters into the chicken coop pushed open with the pop door that has the timer set to open and close at certain times still closed . Unless my children did not fully pull the full size door shut after gathering the eggs the day before, this was not easy for the fox to push the  big door open. I have to push on it very hard to open it when fully shut. The fox must have entered the coop because all the chickens were “hunkered” down looking to the entry at ground level. The poor girls in the nesting boxes nearest the door even had their heads pulled in as close to their bodies as they could. Walking the perimeter of the chicken yard I could only see a few feathers that looked out of place. Strange as it may seem, I can tell by the way feathers are clumped together or laying near one another if they were pulled out or fallen naturally. There was a group of feathers that looked suspicious. There was no hole dug under the 6′ fence that rings the chicken yard. There appeared to be no obvious way the fox could have gotten into the yard. Could the fox have jumped or climbed the fence? Now, that would be a task to climb the fence, but perhaps jumping could have happened. The fox looked to have cleared the 4′ fence with ease, so why not the 6′ fence with the reward of a chicken breakfast on the other side? After my inspection of the chicken yard perimeter, I stood looking and pondering the possibilities when off in the “wild” part of the back of my yard I heard a fox pup calling out. Probably to see why it’s chicken breakfast was taking so long to be delivered.

The feathers that I was speaking of that seemed out of place to me had their owner show up outside of the chicken yard in the main back yard. Thank the stars she was alive and walking around, appearing to be unharmed. I retrieved the chicken net and scooped her up.  I brought her back into what I had thought was the secure chicken yard, looked her over and let her go. She didn’t appear to have any injures. Hummmm. Had the fox taken her over the fence and dropped her? Doubt the fox would have dropped her. Had the chicken been out in the main yard all night and she started walking around when she saw me? She didn’t seem to be upset or on guard. I can tell you all the chickens in the coop sure were upset. I did not take inventory of the chickens when I looked into the chicken coop, as I should have. They are much easier to count when they are still and on their perches. But my mind was on a mission to try to puzzle out what had occurred just minutes before. Once again, I do not have a complete or even a partial answer to the fox and the chicken mystery.

chicken yard

chicken yard

Americana-the chicken that got away

Americana-the chicken that got away

This is just the latest of the many unanswered questions of what happened to my chicken. The only thing I can think to do is reinforce the chicken fence. Which will be:  extend the height of the 6′ fence and attach chicken wire to the 6′ fence at ground level, securing it with garden staples.

The hens’ egg production has fallen off. I’m sure it is partly because we are approaching summer and partly because they have been harassed so often from the fox, or whatever other predator, that their bodies are out of natural rhythm.

This is such a difficult situation. I love keeping chickens and am obligated to keeping them safe and healthy, of course. And I also love and respect nature and wild animals. Clearly the foxes, and whoever else is taking and killing my chickens, are doing so out of a need to eat. This I can understand. But I am not keeping chickens in order to supplement the wildlife in my area, so off I go to reinforce the yard. Wish me luck!

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