About a year ago (Nov. 25, 2015), I wrote about the several red foxes who had made their homes around our acreage and the fact that they were under attack by a local trapper looking for pelts. By the time the trapper left our neighborhood, only one of the three dens was still active – and I wasn’t sure exactly how many foxes called it home, but it looked like only one. I was so saddened by the loss of the other dens that I was determined to co-exist with any of the foxes that were left, so we began to keep a fox-friendly farm. I let him come and eat the fallen fruit from our orchard this past summer, instead of cleaning it all up for the sheep each day, and I would leave an occasional egg out of the chicken yard, noticing that it would disappear from its place in the grass within a day or two. I would see this resident fox out in our yard occasionally, and was happy to have him – knowing that since we had at least one fox still patrolling our acreage meant that the larger and more dangerous coyotes were still held at bay. I considered this a success and hoped that our one fox would eventually bring in more.
A couple of months ago, I also made the decision to allow our chickens to roam outside of their chicken coop for a few hours each day. Since our mean rooster was no longer here, there was no reason not to let the hens out periodically so that they could patrol for bugs, help themselves to raspberries, and generally spread their wings a bit. Since I knew that our fox generally came to eat in the late afternoon, I decided to let the chickens out from mid-morning (when the dogs went into their crates for a rest) until mid-afternoon, just before the dogs came out and the fox came to dine. In addition to establishing this rotation, I also supervised to make sure that my cats would leave the chickens alone, and that the dogs would leave the cats alone – but after a bit of training and monitoring, each group had their own sliver of peaceful time on the lawn each day. My system was somewhat of a “share the wealth” mentality, allowing each of our many creatures their own period of time to wander and explore.
This is how it has worked – relatively peacefully – for these past couple of, with each creature having its own slot of lawn time without the threat of being killed or harmed by any of the others. I still carefully monitor how it all goes to make sure that each species is unharmed by any of the others. There will be no killing on my watch – and all has been generally quiet.
So when I was working inside yesterday, painting the laundry room, I was surprised to hear one of the chickens begin squawking up a storm just outside the front door. The dogs were not even home, so I knew that the chicken was not being chased by one of our dogs – and the cats don’t normally go after chickens any more. Yet, this particular chicken was obviously distressed, sending out the equivalent of chicken screams, one after another, for all she was worth! I ran to the front door to see what was amiss when I spied my neighborly Mr. Fox trying to make off with one of my chickens! “Oh, no you don’t!” I shouted repeatedly as I ran out the door and down the front stairs onto the lawn!
Honestly, I don’t think the fox had any idea what he had gotten himself into. Here he was looking for a nice fresh chicken dinner when suddenly his world exploded with squawking, shouting, and some scary human running at him waving her arms and acting like a crazy person! When Henny Penny (the chicken he had chosen to invite as the main coarse for dinner) saw me coming, she intensified her chicken-screaming, bringing all of the other chickens out of the shadows to see what was happening. What a sight we must have been: one human and a bunch of chickens, all running down the driveway, chasing Mr. Fox, who was trying to keep hold of a flapping, fluttering, screaming Henny Penny!
Well, needless to say, we must have scared that poor fox half to death. He let go of a very relieved Henny Penny and ran off for home with only a mouthful of feathers to show for his efforts. Henny Penny immediately ran back to the coop, done with her wandering time for the day – and most probably for much longer. Unfortunately, Henny Penny at first took quite a while to find the courage to wander out of the coop – she got her name because I would find her sitting in one of the laying boxes every day, hiding from the world. I suspect that now after this experience, it may be a long time before Henny Penny once again feels brave enough to venture out onto the lawn.
Besides that, it seems Mr Fox has been anything but a good neighbor. By the time I got out there to save Henny Penny, he had already made off with several of my other chickens! What ended up saving Henny Penny was the fact that she was so vocal about being “invited” for dinner! I hope that if she does once again decide to leave the coop, she will continue to let me know if Mr. Fox comes around again. I will do what I can to keep her and the remaining chickens safe. Nobody gets to eat one of my chickens on my watch – not even my good friend, Mr. Fox! He is welcome to come eat fruit or eggs, but I draw the line at my friendly chickens – those are under my protection!