If I had been realistic rather than idealistic then I wouldn’t be short a most beloved pet chicken.
My husband was (in hindsight) very right, they did need to go. But I protested out of love for Tod in my favorite childhood drive-in movie, "The Fox and the Hound".
I’d just completed the transaction and my young pullets were set to arrive early April, after the temps were again above freezing. But there was a more pressing matter in his mind regarding their well-being. "Babe, if you wanna get chickens then I’ll need to kill the foxes first."
"But they’re so beautiful! And if we build the fence high enough, they won’t be able to get in."
"They’re foxes. Foxes eat chickens. You’re essentially putting up an all-you-can-eat chicken buffet. If I don’t trap them then your pet chickens will get eaten. Period."
"But they have kits…"
"…and next year those kits are going to eat your chickens…"
"Let’s just see how it goes…maybe they’ll see the fence and stay away…"
He shook his head. "So, I’m basically buying chickens and building a fancy chicken house just to feed the foxes. That makes a ton of sense…"
He knew what he was talking about because he knows animals. Despite my hope for communal peace and the preservation of wildlife on our homestead, predators can do nothing but be what they are. Expecting anything else was not just naive, it was stupid.
That was a year and many expenses ago.
Saturday, just before lunch, our nine-year-old girl (and resident chicken mama) went outside to take some salad scraps to the hens. Seconds later I heard shrieking like I’m never heard before from a child. If true sorrow has a sound, my tender little girl had it flowing in-between screaming, "NO! NO! NOT HER! PLEASE!"
There was a raptor atop of the fresh kill. The taloned bird perhaps scared off the fox who had so methodically brutalized Julie, a blue French Maran hen, leaving her with a broken neck and her throat torn out. Her once beautiful copper-feathered narrow now nothing but skeletal waste, not a shard of flesh left to speak of.
I tried to get the feathers up and wrap Julie’s still warm body in a towel before the children could witness the carnage. But the three older children were lined up outside of the fence, wailing. Their lamentations, pitiful enough to alert a neighbor who ran over to see just what had happened. Worse yet was T-Rex, the three-year-old. Apparently, I wrapped poor dead Julie in his favorite Winnie The Pooh towel, so he began to scream and cry even louder than the other three. "I want my Winnie-Pooh! It’s mine! That is not a chicken towel!"
After the avian burial service, we headed to Tractor Supply to get more chicken wire, snares, traps, and treats for the thirteen survivors who were still huddled up and shaking in a corner.
Saturday was an utter disaster but a great lesson to me: Foxes and chickens cannot coexist because one is dead set on killing the other. If the foxes are allowed to live and flourish then many more chickens will die.
Foxes kill defenseless prey for sport. They hunt fenced-in animals much like gunmen at a stadium soccer match. And pretending that a fox is not aggressive or ignoring the fox in your midst doesn’t make him any less dangerous to the innocents that you love.
Because a fox can only be a fox.
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