Tuesday, May 2, 2017

More Bad News



This hurts to write. I don't even really want to write it. I wish it were a disturbing bad dream, but no.

In my last post I detailed how a fox had taken advantage of our chicken coop not being locked down one night, after the chickens had pecked through a wire on their automatic closing coop door. We'd lost a buttercup, and Pearl was injured.

Sadly, the next morning Pearl was also found lifeless in a nesting box. The poor thing.

So there's two chickens down due to nasty Mr. Fox. Or, most likely, Mrs. Fox, and I'll explain that later.

This morning Justin woke me up with more sadness. This time it was a lot more devastating. Last week's loss was hard, but this was worse.

We're animal people. We love animals.

I know there's a lot of people out there who cannot have pets for various reasons (i.e. they rent, they have allergies, etc.) but every once in a while I'll meet a person who doesn't just not have pets, they disdain pets and animals. A "friend" actually once threatened to kick my cat because she hated cats. And dogs. That friend is no longer in my life.

People like that...I just don't trust them. Not because I want to be nasty, but because my gut tells me people who harbor contempt for animals are just off somehow. In their heart. When I meet these types, which isn't often, my gut tells me, Smile, and back away slowly.

I say that, but I'll also admit that this morning I've been fantasizing about waiting up all night on my back porch with a shotgun, and blowing a fox's head off if he dares to appear in my yard.

Last week after the fox incident, Justin fixed the coop door. Of course he did. He's also been going out every night to double check that the chickens were locked in and safe. Also, our young hatching chicks that we hatched ourselves this spring. They've been out in their own coop of sorts, the old rabbit hutch. Justin even made them a small temporary run so they've been enjoying going out in the sun during the day. Of course we locked them up at night as well. Of course we did.

In hindsight, however, we were fools to not see the vulnerabilities of the rabbit hutch coop. Our permanent cute yellow coop is raised off the ground, there's no digging into it even if a predator gets into the run {which they can, and do}. We designed the coop to be impenetrable to critters.

There's 6ft fence around the big yellow coop, and Sander dug the fence down several inches to discourage digging from both sides--including our dogs trying to dig into the chicken run and the rabbit, Peter, who lived with the chickens, from digging out. We've taken precautions, see.

But the rabbit hutch was not secured in that way. I'm sick with grief.

Simply put, last night a fox easily dug under the bottom of the rabbit hutch, and--we think--one by one took our young hatchlings. Justin got up to open up the coops and found there were no more young chickens left. Not a one.

To make our grief even worse, our rabbit Peter was also dead in the chicken coop run. He was still warm when he was found. Apparently he didn't go into the coop last night {rabbits don't do that on instinct, unlike chickens}. He was unharmed, just dead. We believe he was shocked to death, maybe chased by the evil Mrs. Fox. He'd been through so much. I've been spoiling him lately with lots of treats. I'm glad for that. I'm heartbroken he's gone.

I said no hatched chicks were found, but...

By some small miracle, Justin found one of our hatchlings--ONE!--hiding near our trash cans. How she got away and escaped the fox and her rabbit hutch coop unscathed we don't know. We're just glad one of our 9 hatching egg chicks survived this massacre.

We're pretty sure it's a hen. The kids named her Hei Hei {after the chicken from Moana}, but after this morning Justin has renamed her Lucky. We weren't sure if it was better to re-home her with the big chickens, who might bully her due to her size, or put her with the little Rainbow Dixie chicks we splurged on at the feed store a couple weeks back. They're in the garage, safe in a large dog kennel with a heat lamp. Lucky might pick on them...but there's 8 of them and we decided that was a safer place for her. Fortunately, she's not picking on the littles at all, but almost looks like their mamma hen. The chicks have all crowded around her and enjoy her feathered warmth.

Lucky and her new Rainbow Dixie babies


We got the Rainbow Dixie chicks because, honestly, chicken fatalities happen and I wanted to hedge our bets in case all our hatched chickens turned out to be roos. Now I'm glad we did, even if it felt a bit crazy at the time to bring another 8 chicks home. They were 50 cents each and when you bought 6, they threw in 2 more for free.

In the last week, we've officially lost 10 chickens. And one sweet rabbit.

That hurts to write. It's a hard pill to swallow. My emotions are still all over the place--from intense regret to anger to sadness.

Last week's loss was hard, but today's was worse. I've been crying.

A couple hours after Justin left for work, I saw my neighbor coming up our walk. I knew why she was coming. We'd gone out front to look for anymore escaped miracle chicks, but hadn't found any. My sweet neighbor was working on raking out her beautiful garden bed when she came accross a buried chicken. A bold fox to bury a chicken in broad daylight in a front yard, and the chicken hadn't stiffened with rigor mortis yet. It was my favorite, the first one to hatch. The lavender Orpington whose birth was witnessed on Facebook live. The fox had buried her for later. I'd already counted her as gone, but again this was incredibly hard to see that gorgeous friendly chicken destroyed like this.

So after Googling a bit I learned that this happens in spring. Foxes can take out whole flocks in one fell swoop this way. Most likely, it is a momma fox who has a den with kits nearby. They are emboldened during this time of life, when they have kits to feed, and are more likely to venture into danger to feed their young. Raccoons aren't known to bury kills for later, but foxes are. Who knows where else in the neighborhood my poor chickens are buried? I'm sick with grief. I feel achy.

I wish I could have reasoned with her. I wish I could have talked her into taking a duck or goose from the park, an animal no one would notice missing. I wish I could tell her that these chickens were very special to us. They were the 9 chicks that hatched from our first attempt to incubate eggs. I wish she could have understood that, like her kits, we'd been caring for them lovingly since they took their first breaths. This loss is especially hard because we hatched those chicks, and every one was a survivor, damn it.

Damn that fox.

And I've had violent thoughts about that fox all morning.

Then, I remember, she'd just doing what she was made to do. And if I blew her head off, those kits would suffer. Also, I don't have a shotgun. Yet.

We haven't told the kids yet. I'm avoiding it. It was hard enough last week when we thought we'd just lost one chicken. Eisley stamped her feet and got angry. Which I understood, because anger is a secondary emotion, usually caused by grief or fear or pain. She cursed predators and wished they didn't exist. Sensing a need to curb her inclination to be mad at God about it, I told her that her feelings were completely understandable and valid. But if God didn't allow predators to kill, we'd be overrun with mice and rodents and diseases. I hate spiders, I said, but if God hadn't made spiders we'd have no edible vegetables or fruits and wouldn't even be able to go outside for all the bugs.

Still. It stinks when the predators get your beloved pets or livestock. It just plain stinks. And I've cried a lot today over it.

And I told my husband that I cannot take another loss like this. We're declaring war on that fox. She'll have to hunt elsewhere because I cannot loose another chicken to her. And we won't be getting another bunny because we've agreed we need to be on a pet decline from here on out. But I'm going to miss seeing that sweet bunny all cute and white and plump and hoppy with his chickens.

In a strange way, I'm jealous of those animal haters. How much easier their lives must be, without the grief that comes with loving and losing pets?

But what is that famous saying...better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

The benefits of pets and animals on our wellbeing--mental and physical--are well documented.

Last week I was consoling myself after losing a chicken {later to be two chickens lost} that at least we still had our hatched chicks and Rainbow Dixies. Today I'm going to a bit more of an extreme to cope with my grief: at least our kids are alive and healthy. Always something to have gratitude about. Always. Grief is best tempered with gratitude.

Justin has ordered this to help deter foxes. We'll continue to make sure the coop is locked down each night. We're considering and researching all other possible precautions.

Fool me once, Mrs. Fox, shame on you.

Fool me twice, Mrs. Fox, shame on me.

Fool me thrice, Mrs. Fox, I'll be buying that shotgun after all. Don't even think about it. Kits or no kits.

I no longer think foxes are very cute. Vicious beasts, more like it.

The loss of my precious hatched chicks we've worked so hard on is not something I'll easily get over. I'm sad, angry, and full of regret.

I'm so sad. This is something chicken keepers have been dealing with since the beginning of time, foxes are. But still. It hurts.











4 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. But please don't kill the fox. Killing more creatures is not the answer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Then, I remember, she's just doing what she was made to do. And if I blew her head off, those kits would suffer. Also, I don't have a shotgun."

      I have never had any real intentions of killing the fox. Thanks. -_-

      Delete
  2. So sorry for your loss. When our kids were little we had to deal with the loss of chickens and ducks too. Coyotes and birds of prey liked going after our farm critters. Hope the fox stays away!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Nadine! So true, it's a fact of life for anyone who keeps animals. I've even begins a bit desensitized, but this one was hard because they were our precious hatched chicks.

      Were your kids okay emotionally? I feel like I can hardly handle it, I worry about my kids.

      Delete

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