Monday, June 24, 2013

the last hen standing

we awoke saturday morning to silence. no incessant crowing of various roosters, some young, just trying out their crackly voices and one mature but hoarse little black swedish rooster, none of the incessant chatter of what i call chicken cheerleading, which the other hens sometimes do when one of their compatriots is laying an egg. i didn't notice it at first, since it has become part of the background noise of my world. then husband came in from a visit to the compost heap and he asked if i'd seen any chickens this morning. i hadn't yet been out to scatter their grain, so i said no. he said there were an awful lot of feathers around and in the coop and he was afraid we'd had a visit from a fox.

we had indeed. and with around 40 chickens, not a single one remained, save a little black chick, just a few days old (it disappeared before i could take it in under a heat lamp, so i fear it's gone now too). even the pheasant babies they had hatched out had vanished. a snack for a fox and her cubs, no doubt. it was eerily quiet. we walked the property, looking for scared chickens in a tree, unable to believe that a single fox, even with the help of a couple of puppies (cubs?) could take out 40 some chickens without us hearing a thing. it's true we had grown lax. the chickens are completely free range and run around the property all day long, but they always come into the henhouse at night. we'd gotten lazy about closing them in, so we were tempting fate. one neighbor told us that foxes don't hunt in their own territory, so that explained why we'd seen foxes in the area, but never been visited by one in more than two years.

on saturday, when we were out in the garden, both husband and i swore we heard a bit of low chicken chatter, but we never did spot them. they were well and truly scared. we had no sightings at all on sunday, but it was rainy most of the day, so that was understandable enough. then this evening, as i walked down the path to see why the horses were running around like maniacs, i was sure i saw a hen dart across it ahead of me, but she quickly disappeared, so i wasn't sure. then, when i went to take the horses in, i spotted her up in a tree. all alone. she's a pretty one - a real mix of our two breeds - the danish land race and the swedish blacks, one of the young ones, hatched out at easter. i still hold out hope that there are a few of the others around.

i have oddly mixed feelings about the whole thing. on one hand, i'm sad that i didn't properly protect my chickens and on the other, i have a kind of strange, slightly awed respect for a fox that could take so many chickens in one go and leave only feathers behind. there weren't any bodies or blood or carnage at all. in some sense, nature is cool. i'm glad this pretty little hen survived. and i vow to take good care of her, closing her into the henhouse, safe and sound, at night. if she'll just go back over there.

1 comment:

Veronica Roth said...

oh no! did she go back over there?