A few weeks ago I was on my way home in the early afternoon, when I got a phone call from Mr. Fabulous telling me that we were missing a chicken. All winter we have been letting them free range during the day, being careful to have them back in the coop well before sundown. The previous week we lost a duck, and now this chicken.
The next day Mr. Fabulous took my car to run a few errands, and I decided to take a nap. When I woke up, I looked at the clock and it was about 2:30, so I thought I would go and make sure the chickens were safe before 3:00, when suddenly I heard a commotion outside - it was definitely the call of a chicken in distress. I looked out the window, and in the middle of our shoveled path in the snow was a FOX!! My big chicken was valiantly fighting for her life, and I ran down the stairs and outside, all the while the fox 100% focused on the hunt and 0% aware of my presence. I, of course, had neglected to put shoes on, so I stood on the front porch and shouted, "HEY!! LET GO OF MY CHICKEN!!" The fox looked at me, and reluctantly obliged. The chicken seized her opportunity for freedom and ran towards me, then past me and hid in a old tarp. The fox looked at me as if to say, "Ok, you can have her this time." And then sauntered away.
I went back inside to put shoes on, then assessed that the rest of our birds were still alive and well, then found my poor injured bird. She was missing all of her tail feathers, and bleeding a little on her back from where they had been violently ripped out, but other than that she seemed in good shape. We cleaned her up and sprayed some chicken first aid spray we had on her cut, and then put her in her own coop with a heat lamp, figuring without feathers she'd have a hard time staying warm, and also not wanting the other chickens to attack her.
The fox, however, was also free and healthy. And thought she knew where her next meal was coming from. That night, with all birds safe and sound, the fox returned to find her injured prey, but came up empty handed. The next day we left all the birds locked in their coop, and I pulled in the driveway to see the fox sitting patiently next to our shed, waiting to see if any birds were going to walk down the shoveled path today. Again, when she saw me, she trotted away, but not with any real sense of urgency.
In the following weeks, we have kept our birds locked up (they are not happy about this) and we have managed to keep all of them alive. The poor bald chicken is growing her feathers back and still laying eggs. And the fox is definitely still patrolling outside - not quite as often, but she's there.
Since then whenever I tell this story, I have been given all kinds of suggestions for getting rid of this fox (it should be noted at this point that I always refer to the fox as "she" but I have no real proof of gender). This is obviously a large and well-fed fox, so the ideas have ranged from shooting it, to feeding it, and everything in between. It was suggested that I play music in the coop, also to hang cd's from branches, and potentially that the fox is my spirit animal and maybe that's why I can't get rid of it. Turns out my spirit animal is a raven, according to a quiz I took online, so clearly that's not the answer.
As it warms up outside, I'm sure my birds are going to be harder to contain, so hopefully we will have good means for protecting them, or maybe the fox will find another yard full of delicious treats.