PANIC!

Earlier this week, we’d just finished dinner and I was sitting on the sofa (probably being tortured by a Sasquatch program that Tom insists on watching).   I glanced out at the chickens, who were in their run, scratching for invisible scratch and chasing invisible bugs.  I think some of the leaves that fall into the run have hallucinogens in them.  Anyway, everything appeared to fine and they were busily involved with their usual pre-Chicken Bedtime nonsense.

In between making fun of whatever Tom was watching and wanting to stab myself during locally produced commercials (you wouldn’t believe how bad the commercials are here…every used car dealer thinks his kids should do the commercials for the dealership…it drives me INSANE), I’d glance out at the run just to make sure the flock was still behaving and hadn’t tried to saw their way out of the run to get at a single piece of chickweed that was just out of their reach.

square eggs and iBack to the chickens.  They were standing together at the side of the run looking a bit tall and skinny which usually means that one of them has uttered “THE DANGER SOUND”.   They do it all the time.  They’re the chickens who cried wolf.  One of them make that “BUH-BUCK!!!!” sound and the rest freeze in place with their necks so extended that they look like bowling pins with beaks.  I always look around and never see anything, which brings me back to my suspicion that those leaves they’re eating from whatever tree that is could make me some money if I ever wanted to quit my job and become a drug lord.

I looked around at the yard that I could see from my vantage point on the sofa and everything looked just peachy.  I looked back at the run and if possible, I think those chickens were even taller and skinnier and more bowling pinnish.  Then I noticed a flash of an orange tail and I realized that Wally, our elderly, n’er-do-well cat that lives in Tom’s shop (also known as our three car garage…which rarely sees a car because the place is jammed with theatre scenery), was probably out on one of his evening walk-abouts and despite being a cat, he really isn’t that interested in the chickens.  Wally is terminally lazy and actually lays down to eat his cat food.  Getting into the chicken run and chasing one of them down is NOT on his list of things to do.  Lying on the floor eating cat food and knocking tools off tables are the only things on his list to do…and sleep.  He’s a card carrying member of the Professional Cat Sleepers Guild.

So I really wasn’t too worried.

I watched a little more of the hillbillies screaming about Sasquatch (“IT’S A SQUATCH!!!”) and glanced out the window again.  The chickens had gotten even taller and skinnier and were all standing together in a group watching something.  I saw the flash of orange again.  Damn that Wally.  I’ve been trying to convince Tom for years that Wally needs to go live in another country and I’ve even offered to box him up and ship him somewhere…I’d even go so far as to poke holes in the box.  He must be laying on the sidewalk in front of the run…either that or leaves were making the chickens have a really bad trip.

(ORANGE FLASH)

Um.  The flash looked bigger than Wally.  I squinted so that I could see better.  A tail was barely exposed from behind one of the boxwood bushes.  It looked a bit…fluffy.  I glanced at the chickens in the run and they appeared absolutely frozen in place and were staring.

Then the visitor revealed itself.

A fox.  A red fox.  It stood on the sidewalk next to the run, panting and staring at the chickens.  It looked over its shoulder at the house and then back at the chickens.  The chickens stood frozen in place with their necks fully extended.  The fox switched its tail and stared at them.  Its coat was light and scruffy looking, its tail resembled an orange bottle brush.  It was probably the size of a mid sized dog, but very thin.  Very thin.  It stood there regarding the chickens and I don’t remember any more than that because I screamed,

fox-drawings-003“FOOOOOOOOOXXXXXXXXXXX”

And thundered across the room, down the stairs to the foyer, through the two car garage, and down the path to the where the chickens were.

I don’t think my feet ever touched the ground.  As a general rule, I don’t move too fast.  Our laundry room is on the entrance level of the house, and if I have to walk down the eight steps to the foyer to go to the laundry room, I have to think about it for an hour before I actually do it.  When I realized that the visitor was a FOX, I moved faster than I move when someone says “Hey…there’s a chocolate cake in the kitchen”.

And that’s pretty fast.

When I got to the run, there was no sign of the fox.  There are woods, a pond, an open field, it could have gone anywhere.  The chickens were still standing there looking stunned, except for Vinnie who thought there might be a snack about to be dispersed.  I checked around the pool, around the coop, and around the run.  There was no sign that it had tried to get in.  The chickens settled down and I threw them some scratch to keep them busy because Vin’s constant chortling for treats was getting to be a bit bothersome.

Tom appeared on the path from the house and I ranted about foxes and coops and chickens and fence and foxes and chickens and foxes and chickens.  He checked around a little bit and declared the area fox free…for the time being.

We’ve known that there is a family of foxes living in the woods that border the side of our property.  Occasionally, prior to the chickens moving in, we’d see the male and female come out of the woods and trot through our neighbor’s yard on their way to do fox business.  Earlier this spring, we were out on the deck enjoying a warm evening and we heard the yips of the kits and the louder yaps of the adults echoing through the ravine that leads to the pond.  They were very close.  Another evening, I was outside picking weeds for the chickens near the edge of the woods and heard a noise.  I looked into the woods and glimpsed a red/orange flash.  I took a few steps closer and could see the fox kits playing on the other side of the ravine while one of the parents watched from a distance.  Greg had stumbled across their den when he was searching the woods for morel mushrooms and said that the area around it was littered with animal bones.

They now obviously know about the chickens.  I know that they’ll come back.  I’ve checked the run over and over again to be sure that they’ve not started to dig a hole or push through the fencing.  I don’t think they could, but I know that I’m also naïve about the ways of foxes and the stories that I’ve read from other chicken keepers about foxes taking members of their flock in broad daylight make me terrified for my own little flock of ten.

So there’s good news and bad news.  The good news is that the chickens remain unscathed and their coop is very secure.  The bad news is…we’ve got hungry foxes in the area…and foxes love them some chicken.  The bad news for the foxes is…I love me some chickens too and apparently I can run pretty fast when the situation calls for it.

Don’t underestimate this  soon-to-be 50 year old, foxes.  I may be afraid of a quarter sized spider, but I am NOT afraid to make you into a fox stole…so see what you can do about that shabby fur.  I want to look FABULOUS if I end up having to make you into a new wardrobe piece.

3 thoughts on “PANIC!

  1. That’s it Chris, you tell that fox where to go!! You might think about trapping him – I’m guessing there is someone somewhere who does it, start with fish and game? Get him moved FAR, FAR away… As a stole, it’ll be all flea bitten and besides, you’d give Vinnie a heart attack if he saw you wearing that!!

  2. If you trap a fox this time of year, you may be writing the death warrant on cubs. Also, it may be illegal, depending on where you live.

    Foxes can climb and dig. I hope the run has a very secure top. I hope the Alcatraz addition to the wall inside the coop went to the ceiling and can support 35 lbs of fox. I hope the coop floor inside is not dirt. It would take them about 20 mins to dig a hole to get in, during the day when no one’s around.

    Foxes are very smart and they are feeding a family right now. Once they taste your chicken dinner, life gets REALLY hard, as they will be 10X more persistent.

    We’ve had foxes (and about everything else, including mountain lions, except lynx, wolverine and wolves) around here and we build many Alcatrazs to keep them out. We used 1/2″ hardware cloth almost exclusively, as raccoons are death on chicken wire and weasels go right thro it.

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