I just had to go and thumb my nose at fate.
Not two hours after I posted that thing about the joys of owning chickens and how we haven’t lost a single one yet, a fox stopped by our front yard to help himself to a free lunch.
I was upstairs and heard the birds make a ruckus, so I went downstairs to investigate. When I walked into the kitchen, I saw a fox standing on our front lawn by the tree line, right where the chickens usually hang out under the pine trees in the morning.
I ran outside and grabbed the shotgun on the way out. (I staged it next to the door with an empty chamber and the safety on just so I’d have it handy in case of predator instead of having to run upstairs and fetch it out of the cabinet. It turned out to be a good call.)
IWhen I opened the door, the fox looked over and started running. Unfortunately for him, he chose to run almost straight away from me across the leach field on the other side of our driveway. Bringing the shotgun up and pulling the trigger was almost a reflex. I hit him in the rear from about thirty yards at a full run, and that was pretty much that.
The chickens were scattered to hell and gone. I walked around calling for them, but I was pretty sure that the fox either a.) killed the whole flock before I got downstairs, or b.) scared all the chickens into setting sail for Patagonia. But as I was approaching the burn pile at the bottom of our leach field, one chicken popped its head out of the pile. I called it, and it hopped off the pile to come over to me…and four more followed it, single-file, in no particular hurry. The rest of them had scattered in the woods behind the house, but they all came back to the coop within thirty minutes.
Except for Clucky #5, that is. One of the barred rocks didn’t come back. I was hoping she had just run too far and gotten lost temporarily, but when she wasn’t back by the coop at nightfall, I had to write her off as MIA/likely KIA. Either the fox killed her in the first attack, or she went into the woods too far and got lost or fell to another predator.
So now we’re down to nine chickens.
I took a picture of the dead fox. It’s a shame, really—it was a very pretty gray fox, and I hated having to kill it, but a single fox could, and would, have wiped out that whole coop in less time than it took for me to write the first three paragraphs of this blog post. Foxes are smart animals, and even if I had chased him off, he would have remembered the big FREE CHICKEN sign invisibly hovering above our yard, and he would have returned and taken the rest of them. I could have tried to trap it, but I didn’t have a trap handy, and the Remington was what I had in hand when I stepped out to confront him.
Again, it was a shame—too bad the chicken was lost, and too bad I had to shoot that fox. I don’t enjoy killing animals, but there was really no other way to save the rest of the birds.
So, farewell, Clucky Five. We hardly knew ye. Your sisters ate your share at dinner in your honor.