Monday, May 24, 2010

three dead

I woke up around quarter to five to the sound of John crowing. Little did I know, that was the last time I'd ever hear him. Soon after his crow there was a squawking and screaming of birds and I raced to the window to see feathers flying and a flash of red fur. A fox had come. Again.

At 2 AM I heard the screams from the coop, and ran out into the night to see two ducks running madly and three chickens loose. Everyone was running for cover and I was only able to catch one duckling. All I could do was save what was inside and hope the fox wouldn't return till the following day. I placed the one duck back inside, reinforced the door with wire, and went to bed...dazed, heart beating, and sweating.

In the morning I ran outside with my rifle, hoping for a lucky shot. I fired it twice in his direction but no luck. I was aiming down at the ground anyway. I wanted to scare him off, knowing a kill was impossible at this point that morning. My beautiful young rooster John had been taken, so had a fat orpington. A brave fox for sure to take a duckling and two giant birds. I looked around for survivors, saw the story of the struggle everywhere in feathers. The yard was littered with the cape and tail of John, and the golden plumage of my laying hen. The other birds who escaped ran to the safety of the sheep pasture, fenced and among giant ovines. I hope they are interested in self preservation enough to stay there.

I'm buying a trap at lunch. Three dead birds, at least.


Blogger melanie said...

We are having fox predation this year for the first time...a red fox...and just as deadly as yours. If we weren't an hour south of you, I might wonder if it was the same one

Good Luck with the out for skunks!

May 24, 2010 at 6:47 AM  
Blogger said...

I'm sorry to read this, Jenna. We're having fox troubles too and the carnage is just heartbreaking. Most recently, one tried to swipe one of my Rouen drakes. The dog scared the fox off but it was too late -- the duck died in my arms. Good luck with the trapping.

May 24, 2010 at 6:51 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Montero said...

Can I suggest a ring of electric wire around your hen house about 6" from the ground.

Foxes are very sensitive to electric, one hit is usually enough to dissuade them from their midnight raids. And the bonus is that the electric is always on guard. Traps and a gun are a great second line of defense. I use all three. Even had a fox this morning in my crow trap.

May 24, 2010 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

How is the fox getting in? Our chicken house is like the Fort Knox of chicken houses, lol. The outside run, however, is not fox proof - he could easily scale the fence or wiggle underneath. So far our dog, and shotgun, have kept the foxes at bay.

Touch wood.

Sorry to hear about your loss - it is always heart-rending and frustrating to lose livestock to predators. We've yet to hawk-proof our coop (and likely never will), and lost our beautiful heritage Rhode Island Red hen to a red-tail a few weeks ago.

The hawks are so beautiful, and I don't really begrudge them but it's still upsetting.

May 24, 2010 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

I had a fox right outside yesterday - laying down underneath the front window, calling to the cat! The cat isn't afraid of anything, so he was just sitting there as the fox yowled at him. What an odd morning. Well, at least I know for sure what took one duckling, and cut open the other...

Don't worry, the one that got sliced open actually lived! Too bad it's yet another drake though.

May 24, 2010 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger ShepherdWannabe said...

Oh no! So awful. I'm so sorry!

May 24, 2010 at 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That makes me sad. I'm so sorry that happened. Good luck getting the sucker.

May 24, 2010 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

I'm so sorry Jenna. I know it's the circle of life, but it's sad all the same. Hope you catch him.


May 24, 2010 at 10:12 AM  
Blogger sash said...

I just read your book on the weekend - loved it - fascinated by your story - and so sorry to hear of your loss over the weekend.

May 24, 2010 at 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

快樂是你與生俱來的權力,它不應該取決於你完成什麼。 ..............................

May 24, 2010 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

Wow, so sorry to hear it, and good luck with the protection systems. Would a fox not carry off a bird it had killed? I had an attack last year & don't know what did it. Are they feeding kits? Not that that would make it ok, but it explains the audacity.

May 24, 2010 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Oh NO! I'm so sorry to hear that. I hope all goes well with the trapping and that your other birds weren't too shaken up by the intruder.

All the best,

May 24, 2010 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Oh, I just HATE THAT. Piles of feathers everywhere is such a horrible sight to see. I'm so sorry.

May 24, 2010 at 11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Jenna that's just horrible! Have you thought of getting one of these?

May 24, 2010 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

I guess fox predation is the bad you have to take along with the good of living in the country....I think Jennifer had the best suggestion- wire up your hen housing, if you can swing it.

I'm sorry to hear about John. Good luck with the rest!

May 24, 2010 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Jenna,
Sorry to hear about John and the other birds. Did he get in on the side of the coop where you showed Zach? I know you were concerned when we were up there. A cat tried to get at one of the rabbits the other day. I had to secure his cage better. Needless to say they stayed in the basement that night. We expanded the garden too!!! I will have to tell you more about it later. I will call you soon with my new cell number so be on the look out!!! Miss ya

May 24, 2010 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

sorry to hear that. i have a fox den just a stones throw from my bedroom window and wake up to the remains of chicken carcasses on a daily basis.

free range poultry has no chance in fox territory.

May 24, 2010 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

also, have you heard of the organization Predator Friendly?

they have some great advice of how to coexist with wildlife.

May 24, 2010 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger ThePoolRoom said...

We've lost one chicken to a fox since moving to our rural acre about 6 months ago. It actually pulled the chicken's head off through the chicken wire, leaving the body inside the run! I don't know why the silly thing stuck its head through.

There's been no sign of the fox for several months now, but as soon as it shows up again I'll be borrowing a trap from a mate.

May 24, 2010 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Good Luck. Foxes are the hardest thing I have trapped yet. Electric fencing works the best. My dog does a very good job of waking me up at night too. We keep the Shotty Loaded.

May 24, 2010 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger SouthernHeart said...

I'm so sorry, Jenna. When my husband built my chicken house and yard, he said "we're going to war up here on this mountain". I, the city girl, had no idea what he was talking about. He meant the cougar, foxes and coyotes. So far, so good... I hope you're able to trap this chicken thief...


May 24, 2010 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Aaren said...

We lost about 8 layers in 8 nights last year. Foxes kill for fun when they get into a frenzy and rarely eat all they kill, such a waste. They also keep coming back. We got a Premier poultry net with a solar charger so we can still range the birds on pasture, but move it around. If you have some open fields and get good sun, that could be an option, but with poor sun, sometimes the solar charger goes kaput leaving us tossing and turning at every noise. We put out a trap but only caught our aussie shepherd! Or you could reinforce the boundary of the coop with wire with 12 inches bent over and buried to prevent digging. More work... alas.

May 24, 2010 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

That sucks.
I can only say it is worth investing the time and effort into a truly foxproof chicken coop at some point in the future. Perhaps in the fall when the harvest is in...
Meanwhile, good hunting.

May 24, 2010 at 11:18 PM  
Blogger Mother of Chaos said...

I'm so sorry. Geez. They make for formidable opponents, too. Best of luck to you (and your chickens).

May 24, 2010 at 11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My profound sympathies over your losses. There are few things more frustrating than predation. We lost a rooster and two hens to a hawk this year and even when we caught him in the act we were pretty much helpless to do much than brandish our rifle and scream. We fenced our hens in after that, under some large trees with intertwined limbs to make an aerial attack almost impossible. Hope you get that red rascal!

May 24, 2010 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger Rabbit said...

experience, beautiful

May 25, 2010 at 12:15 AM  
Blogger 阿楊 said...

Cast not the first stone. .............................................

May 25, 2010 at 1:16 AM  
Blogger Manzanita Farms said...

Dear Jenna,

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of John and the others. We get so attached and, even more so, "accustomed" to our animals being there that the loss of any one is heartbreaking. Hearing your description of John crowing in the morning and then suddenly he is hard that must be. I feel for your loss and send my blessings your way. I know how I would feel if one of my chickens were gone and their feathers were scattered about. It's the cycle of life, but it doesn't make it any less painful. Bless you dear girl.

May 25, 2010 at 1:51 AM  
Blogger nancmcp said...


May 25, 2010 at 5:37 AM  
Blogger sheila said...

I can't even let my poultry out during the day because the fox is bold enough to hunt then. Lost one duck last week then a few days later caught a fox stalking my remaining 3 ducks. The dogs and the geese alerted me by making a racket. Now all the animals are in Fort Knox protection. Solid pens at night and electric poultry net during the day. Free ranging is no longer an option. Live too close to other people to be able to shoot and the predators (raccoons are really bad here) seem to be trap shy.

Good luck. A good dog helps, but it's hard to train one that won't chase poultry and is willing to stay with them day and night.

May 25, 2010 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

I feel your pain. We've lost 6 hens and a rooster to a fox this spring and 1 hen to a hawk. They can no longer free-range unless I'm outside with them. Besides the enjoyment they get from ranging, it sure increases the feed costs when they have to stay in the coop.

May 25, 2010 at 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, sad, but this is nature's way. I think this fox will plague you until you find a way to keep him from your birds.

May 26, 2010 at 1:12 PM  

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