They are beautiful and wily and move with the swift grace of a dancer. They seem so much like some wonderful cat-dog mashup that I always forget they are really bloodthirsty, chicken-slaughtering fiends.
Until they strike. Which they did today.
And boy, oh boy, did they strike.
My daughter came in earlier to say that she heard the chickens making quite a racket outside and went to see what was the matter. When she stepped outside, she could hear the chickens squawking like crazy from the bushes and then saw a baby fox sitting right underneath our hammock.
Now, to be clear, our hammock is a matter of feet from our house and this was in the middle of the day. This was not your typical fox behavior.
Foxes generally hunt early in the morning (before sunrise) or late in the evening and they tend to hunt alone. Because this happened right in the middle of the day with humans and dogs nearby AND because Tatum actually saw a baby fox, it seems as though this may have been a teaching moment for Ma and Pa Fox.
I imagine the conversation on the other side of the forest line went something like this:
Ma Fox: Okay, Pup. See that red house over there? Those folks have LOTS of chickens and we’re going to go get some for lunch.
Baby Fox: But Ma, I’ve never hunted anything before, will I be able to do it?
Pa Fox: Son, trust me. Chickens are the dumbest creatures around and their people aren’t much brighter. Just march right up to them, pick one out, grab it, and run. We’ll meet you back here.
And that’s what they did.
By the time Tatum and I got back outside, there were feathers from at least three different chickens strewn wildly around the farm. In every direction, it looked like a pillow fight gone horribly wrong.
And we were hard-pressed to find the remaining chickens.
We immediately started scouring the property, trying to get some kind of head count.
Mostly, we were searching for the mama hen and her two chicks. She was the first of our broodys to hatch chicks, and had been showing her babes the ropes for the past month. It has been exceptionally adorable to watch them travel around behind her like two fat, fluffy kernals of popcorn.
But there was no sign of any of them.
This bummed us all out in a very big way.
All of the chickens were in hiding though, so it was possible (though unlikely) that they were simply hiding somewhere we hadn’t thought to look. We checked the woods and the bushes, both coops, the goat shed, and even the pig shed. Lots of chickens were up on their roosts for safety, while many others huddled together in the bushes.
On a second pass through the coops, Dave saw one of the babies alone in a corner. We knew then that there was no way the mama could still be alive.
Somehow, the fact that one of the babies survived made it all that much worse.
Without other chicks to grow up with, this bird would surely be a lifetime loner. The thought made me incredibly sad and I went to hold and comfort her and let her know I would take care of her.*
*side note: Chickens really hate this. They do not find it comforting. The only one who was comforted was me
Just as I was wrapping up the Brief Moment of Chicken Torture Disguised as Love, I saw a tiny white chick sprinting across the lawn as fast as its little legs could carry it (which, by the way, is wicked fast).
The sibling had also survived! It was a glorious moment!
We ushered the white one toward its sister so that they could be reunited. They found one another and immediately raced into the bushes, undoubtedly to regroup and grieve privately.
We won’t know until later tonight exactly how many chickens we lost today. Once they are all roosting, we’ll do our usual head count and see what the damage really was. It is ever humbling to see nature in action and to recognize and accept each creature’s place along the food chain.
There is something universal, however, about a mother sacrificing all for her children. In sharing this story with my own children, I explained that I would do exactly the same for them if ever a tiny baby fox tried to eat them.