Thursday, May 16

right in the gut

I hate losing chickens.

I hate losing anything that I put time, care, money and effort into.

But losing a hen, especially to a violent act, adds a whole new dimension to the loss. She is not just money lost in egg income or the time and care that I took in raising them from baby chicks. I lost three living creatures.

To a fox.

Yesterday afternoon when the little man and I went out to feed the chickens an afternoon snack of bread scraps, I saw a pile of scattered feathers and a half eaten chicken carcass inside the run addition into the grass. I explained to him that these things happen and I tried not to get upset in front of him. The ladies were put in the coop for the rest of the day and I took care of the remains after the little man was in the house.

I hate losing an animal and I stood in the yard looking at the brown and white feathers feeling like a neglectful failure of a mother. I provide great fencing, a secure coop and what I like to think is a safe environment. I know there are fox, coyote, raccoons, and the occasional loose domestic dog running around which is the price we pay for living near a large forested area and farm land. And we love it here and would not change a thing. But we have not had a lot of problems from the wildlife so when something like this happens it hits me right in the gut.

I moved the portable run addition to a new patch of grassy area, this time right along the shed as to give a sense of security to the girls and to maybe deter the fox from venturing too close.

Then today when I went out to lock the girls in the coop and check the feeders and fonts, I found two dead chickens in the new fenced in grass area. I was angry and I spent the time chicken on the girls fuming and cussing out the fox under my breath. I apologized to the chickens which was all I could really do while they glared at me from the roost. I felt awful and I went out and looked at the two piles of feathers and half eaten chickens. I called Roy out to look and he confirmed that it was definitely a fox that had done the damage. He kindly removed the bodies for me and I went into the house defeated and angry.

I take these kinds of things seriously. I raise the chickens from fluffy little chicks, I feed them the best food I can afford, I make sure they have fresh straw and plenty of water. I worry about them having enough shade during the hot days and provide them with dust baths, DT earth and all the kitchen scraps they can eat. I sell their eggs and I enjoy their antics while I am out in the garden.

And now I feel totally helpless. What can I do besides lock the chickens up in the coop all day? I can redo the fencing, making it stronger and burying it 6" down to avoid digging. I can't spend all day and night in a lawn chair with a shotgun. I could give up raising chickens or I could buy some top of the line 'fox repellent' from Country Max.

These kinds of incidents really make me question if I am able to practice animal husbandry. I get too attached - too emotional. I get scared when something is wrong with one of the chickens and I relay on Roy to handle the life and death decisions. When things like this happen I think I should stick to gardening and pay $4 per dozen for brown eggs at the grocery store.

I am reminded of something I wrote last year when I lost one of my new chicks.

"...there is no room to lax in safety and common sense."

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