Something sad and horrific happened last weekend. A fox killed four of my five hens. I gave the fifth hen, Leslie, who survived, away to a friend who keeps chickens. Now I wake every morning to an empty coop.
Oh, it’s awful. But chickens die. They have short lives, compared to dogs and cats (and humans). And I have never met a chicken owner who has not lost birds to predators or disease. Chickens are fragile creatures, and there are hawks and foxes and racoons and dogs that have the instinct to kill them, living in my area.
Another cold truth: I really don’t have the bandwidth to care for animals right now. It’s hard enough to care for myself. My housemates have been heroic in helping care for the chickens lately. I hope to be a chicken owner again in the future. But for now, a higher power has used a tragic and disgusting and gruesome method of allowing me a break, and I’m taking him/her/them/it up on in.
****TRIGGER WARNING: THE DETAILS****
Leslie, my shiest hen, who was at the bottom of the pecking order, had hurt her leg. I didn’t want her walking on it too much. So I locked her in the coop and let the others free range for a while.
I have two areas for free range. One is surrounded by a 5- or 6-foot deer fence with a reinforced bottom. The other is surrounded by a chain link fence that’s lower. I put the four chickens in this chain link area. I have put my hens in this area for years, with no problems. No predator has ever jumped the fence or flown in.
I guess there’s a first time for everything.
The four chickens were in the chain link area. I was sitting inside working at the computer. (Big mistake. I know it’s dangerous to leave free-range chickens unattended . . . but they so hate being cooped up all day, and I so have other things to do than to watch them all day. . . .)
I heard a loud squawking. But this is normal. They make all sorts of noises, due to fighting or being startled by something, etc.
Twenty minutes later, I went outside, and the biggest fox I have ever seen jumped out of the chain link area, ran into my neighbors’ yard, and vanished.
Carnage. Feathers everywhere. Bodies. It was revolting. I felt nauseous.
Fortunately, my hero of a neighbor came over and disposed of the poor deceased creatures for me.
He also gave me some sad information. He said this same preternaturally large fox had killed our neighbor’s ducks. Sigh.
Environmentalism Versus Get the F*** Out of My Yard
I consider myself an environmentalist. I love nature. I love birds. I love the fish in the sea. I love the cicadas. I love wolves, bears, coyotes, and, yes, foxes.
But there’s an obvious tension here. It’s easy to love things from afar. I love watching the cute fox dart across the road. But when the cute fox comes into my yard . . . it’s not so cute anymore.
It’s not surprising that early Americans killed off a bunch of big predatorial wildlife. They owned animals like chickens that were at risk (among other reasons).
It’s important that we find ways to live with these wonderful, majestic animals and encourage their surviving and thriving.
And it’s important that I build a taller fence.
Goodbye and In Memoriam
Chickens are social creatures, like humans. It would have been cruel to keep Leslie all alone. I gave her to a kind friend who owns a small flock. So far, Leslie is thriving there!
Leslie is at the top of this photo.
The other hens, clockwise from top: Brene, Marie, Ottessa, Kamala.
Love you all forever.