fox two aftermath.

I got Chicken #8 back yesterday, but it took me a few hours. She was hiding in the underbrush and wouldn’t come out, fleeing from me whenever I tried to approach her. The other chickens were all safe in Cluckheim Keep.

Foxes are smart animals. They remember the location of an easy buffet like a pasture full of free-ranging chickens. I didn’t want to lose any more of the flock, but I had to get the straggler back. So I let them all out to free-range again and coaxed them over to the location of Trauma Chicken with some treats. Sure enough, the straggler heard the flock and rejoined them in a hurry. Of course, they didn’t want to go back into the chicken house just yet, so I had to spend two hours out in the rain, standing guard over the flock with the shotgun. At nightfall, they all went inside as usual, and I locked the door and went inside to dry off. The things I do for my poultry.

Later, I was poking around on the Backyard Chickens discussion forum for some ideas on fox-safe runs when I came across a story that made me shake my head in disgust.

When you read the “Predators and Pests” forum at Backyard Chickens, you’ll quickly learn that flock wipes are no rarity. Foxes in particular will stash their kills and work in pairs, and a hungry pair of foxes with kits waiting back at the den can take a flock of twenty chickens in minutes. Foxes are pretty much a constant risk to free-range chickens, and they can get into fairly complex enclosures. What was more irritating to read about, however, was the sheer number of incidents people recounted where free-roaming neighbors’ dogs had killed some or all of their chickens. From the accounts, that’s a pretty common event, and a lot of dog owners just plain refuse to take responsibility for their animals or pay restitution. After all, they’re “just chickens”. (Tell that to the little kid who lost all of her pet chickens to a neighbor dog while she had to watch the whole thing.)

Anyway, one of the posts was a link to this article. To recap: young woman in Durango, CO owns a lab/Great Dane mix. She flies home to Michigan for a family visit, but doesn’t want to pay the extra fees to fly her dog too, so she leaves him in the care of a pet sitter. The pet sitter’s roommate lets the dog out without a leash, and the dog runs off the property, which isn’t fenced in. Dog goes to a neighbor’s farm and proceeds to attack and kill the neighbor’s grandkid’s chickens. Family friend who happens to be at the farm shoots the dog dead after trying to scare him off by yelling doesn’t work.

Dog owner is shocked and amazed to find out that shooting a dog molesting livestock is perfectly legal. Read through the Comments thread on that article for the stereotypical granola soundbites of “needless killing”, “armed rednecks who feel the need to carry a gun around in January”, “shoulda fired a warning shot”, and so on. Now she made a Facebook group trying to get enough signatures to change or amend the law to “give more rights to dogs and their owners.”

*blink*

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. We own five of the little stinkers. But I know that we are fiscally and legally responsible for everything they do. If I let them escape out of neglect or inattention, and they run to a neighbor’s property and start killing chickens, I would not fault the neighbor for shooting my dogs. The buck stops with the dog’s owner, and nobody else.

What the hell else is the owner of the chickens supposed to do? You have a large dog (a lab/Great Dane mix is a big animal), engaged in killing your livestock, and not obeying shouted commands to stop. Should you try to physically restrain the animal—which is already in “kill” mode—and risk getting mauled? Should you let him kill all the chickens and then hope you can locate the owner of that dog to ask for restitution? Should you wait for animal control to show up, when a dog can kill an entire flock of 20 or 30 chickens in less time than it takes for you to make the call?

I just can’t fathom the level of self-absorption and blame-shifting that would lead someone to blame the farmer who was forced to deal with the situation.

(I know that dogs are family members to most people, and that losing one hurts a lot. And yes, chickens are cheap. But tell someone who has raised a twenty-chicken flock from the “little yellow fuzzball” stage and watered, fed, and kept them safe every day for months or years only to see them all killed in two minutes for sport by an unleashed dog that they’re only worth the $2.50 a pop you paid for the chicks.)

20 thoughts on “fox two aftermath.

  1. I still remember MSgt B. explaining to his daughter that he hoped one of the horses in the pasture across the way would give young Jack the dog a little kick; not hard, just enough to make him wary of horses and unlikely to chase them.

    “Why would you want them to kick Jack?”

    “So I won’t have to shoot Jack for chasing horses, honey.”

    Things are different out in the country…

  2. As much as I love our goldens and would hunt down anybody that did them harm without cause, yes, the buck stops with me. If they’re loose and marauding they could, unfortunately, pay the price for my negligence.

    The devil is in the details, but I can’t fault the livestock owner in the crystal clear examples you’ve outlined.

  3. I wonder if she’d have been happier paying a thousand dollars per chicken, instead.

    • Goddamn there are some serious fucking idiots in the comments on that article.

  4. Well, Marko, you definately have a solution right there. Problem is – how to make it work in your yard.

    Fox proof Plus free range = large secure enclosure.

    Good luck

  5. I’d offer that some sort of optically-sighted .30 caliber or larger shoulder arm with an effective range of 100 to 250 yards might be a better choice than the shotgun. And, get a good sling so it’s always on your shoulder once you step outside. A Marlin 336 in .30-30 wouldn’t necessarily be a bad choice, and 35 Remington is pretty good, too.

    Just remember that you don’t have to recover the body, but just ensure that it doesn’t bother the chickens again. I suspect you’ll find a never-ending supply of chicken predators, and each one will have to be educated individually.

    • A fox does not require that big of a round.

      Marko’s 12 gauge solution works just fine at the range needed, and does not endanger the neighbors.

      If the neighbors are not an issue, then maybe an AR would be a better choice than a lever gun. .223 kills coyotes just fine.

    • My longest shot on this property is maybe ninety yards, and we have a public road on one side that I won’t shoot across or toward. The 12ga. and the .22 do just fine on everything that needs killing around here. I have a rifle in .303, but that would only come out if I had a reason to discourage a black bear. It’s wooded around here, and the neighbors are quite a bit away, but a .30-caliber rifle bullet travels far and penetrates a lot.

  6. Marko: You might want to get some info on trapping for fox, and getting a trapper’s license for your state.

    Good fox pelts are worth good money these days … Asian buyers snap them up, as their customers don’t give a damned about PETA nonsense.

    If they are being baited into your yard, you might as well make some cash off the fuckers.

  7. I was a 3rd generation sheep shearer in Idaho. I once saw a man shoot his own dog that had left the ranch at night. I once worked for a guy who had a milking nanny goat tat HATED strange dogs an coyotes. She would jump any fence to stop one. usually fatally.She accepted and protected “her dogs”. i think if you got the right one you would have weed control and fox deterrent. This rancher turned down $3000 for her in 1985.

      • I was going to suggest a freaking llama for a fox deterrent, but didn’t think Marco would seriously consider it. However, since he has now built the Taj MaChicken, how much more trouble would it take to fence around the place and add a llama or some goats or something?

        All you would need is a pickup bed full of stakes, some roll fending, an a half case of dynamite for the rocky ground.

        Seriously, if you want to make a $1,000 omelet, you’re going to have to protect them eggs.

  8. The Summer after I graduated from High School (’62) I stayed with my favorite Uncle, the insane one, and his wife. My responsibilities included caring for 50 some hens and a dozen or so ducks. We had coyotes, the odd fox and raccoons harassing the hens and screwing up egg production. Our answer: Banties. We went to the local livestock auction and came home with 20 Bantam hens and 5 Bantam roosters. They were to be sacrificial to the laying hens. By early fall we had at least 50 banties in the brush and woods around the house and chicken run. My Grandmother told me that Guinea hens would be at least as effective if not moreso and would give all the neighborhood dogs an unpleasant education about birds. Somewhat safer and quieter than a 12 ga.

    Gathering banty eggs was a hoot. Obviously I never found lots of ’em. Those little eggs were delicious even if it did take four to make a decent breakfast. Those little hens are pretty good at hiding and defending their nests. The roosters are fearless and aggressive.

  9. When I lived out in the far western end of Flat State, I rode some at a local stable at the edge of town (outside town limits but in sight of them). Someone decided to let their dogs run loose and they started harassing the barn owner’s llamas (pack animals) and horses. After having to chase the dogs away with chunks of firewood, my instructor and I brought our firearms out the next day (with landowner’s permission and after confirming state and county and town rules). Scratch two out of five dogs. The others stayed away after that. We heard from another neighbor later that the dogs had started by harassing chickens, then moved up the game ladder. If you are going to have animals, you have to control said animals. Period.

  10. You might find getting an electronic game caller and setting up an ambush for the fox will be more effective.

    Understand this will be an ongoing war for as long as you have livestock.

  11. The three s’s are never more appropriate than when critters go bad. As to the granola cruncher in Colorado, big doggy would get a dirt nap in an unmarked hole.

    I had to shoot some hound dogs that went feral back in the 70’s. Could not get close so I dosed em with 22 magnum at about 200 yards.

  12. Somebody has to be the human bein’, and lately some are not up to the task.