It is amazing to me how we notice the things we need to, but not always in time.
I don't always make it to the henhouse to check the chickens every day. Sometimes, I'm there twice in one day, but other times, I skip. I always give them enough food and water to get through more than one day, and truthfully, I like to encourage them to get outside, especially now that the ground is thawing, and look around for bugs to supplement their diet. It's good for them, saves on feed, and, at least in theory, should be good for the garden I'm hoping to start down near their coop. (I know the bugs are freed from whatever icy prison held them through the winter, because this morning, our lawn was flickering with gorging robins.)
I've been in a funk all day and when the Babe (about three seconds after practically shrieking, "I NOT TIRED" at me) passed out on my lap, I decided to take the opportunity to go down to the barn to feed, water and gather eggs. I took Pasha (the lab puppy) with me for a walk, though taking her to the chickens is always a dicey business, because she sometimes decides that they're big fluffy chase toys that might be tasty snacks. I saw something in the field past the outdoor chicken coop that I couldn't quite place; I had seen a chicken or two in the field earlier today, but now I saw large splashes of color that didn't belong on the straw-colored dead grass. I knew, before I knew, what I was seeing: a fox, in motion, and two chickens, still. As I drew closer, the fox flashed up the hill with an enormous clump of black and brown--one of the Araucana hens. His tail seemed two feet long, tipped in lush white fur. Everyone but me has seen this fox this spring, and it appears I saw him too late.
Also in the field, left behind, was a big white body--too big to be Penelope, the Leghorn hen. It was Spot, the aggressive white rooster I've periodically threatened with the stew pot for his habit of flying at my legs when I come into the coop. Because I had the dog with me, I couldn't, thankfully, just walk right over to his body. I didn't want Pasha to play with him, so instead, she and I went into the barn--but not before another Araucana, ranging outside, tempted her. Today, she couldn't resist, and I am horrified to admit that I chucked a (small) rock at her body to get her to lay off the poor bird. (It glanced off her--I didn't throw it hard--and stopped her attack.) The hen was able to fly up onto a fence post and get away, and so I went inside to do my chores. Everyone else was fine; the fox, in fact, has not been in the henhouse, which is good news.
After gathering the eggs, replenishing water and feed and dumping out the bag of table scraps saved for them, I took the bag and a pair of work gloves outside to gather up Spot's body. With apologies to the squeamish--he'd been beheaded, rather neatly, it seemed; this came as a relief as I've been told that foxes can be messily destructive when they kill. There was a huge pile of feathers where the other chicken must have been taken, but Spot shed almost none. Dido decided several months ago that Spot was the king of the chickens, that the other roosters were his body guards. Maybe today it was the hen who was trying to protect the top of her pecking order. I am hoping this isn't the beginning of a spring of loss.
Posted by Paige at 4:39 PM