Sunday, November 20, 2011

Score one for the Foxes

It had to happen sooner or later.  We've had our birds for a year and a half, and during this time, we haven't lost any of our birds to predators.  Between having our guard geese, large white Embdens that patrol our chicken yard, and the fox population being hit hard in our area with mange, we just haven't seen foxes around much for the last two years.  This has been a mixed blessing.  Not only do I like foxes and enjoy seeing them, but they also keep the squirrel population at bay, something we were made aware of this year as we tried to garden.

In a normal year, the foxes will raise their young in the ditch in back of our property.  When the kits are old enough to learn how to hunt, mom and dad bring them to our farm to learn the ropes.  Fortunately, this has usually meant going after the squirrels.  I remember one day when I was working in our garden and a young fox caught a squirrel about 30 feet away from me.  The little guy brought his lunch over to the garden fence and sat there eating it, right in front of me.  I didn't appreciate it at the time.  

This year, however, the squirrels ate everything, chokecherries, plums, tomatoes, sunflowers, and apples.  They also raid our chicken food on a daily basis, knocking the lid off the metal trash can where we store the grain and even hopping right into the chicken feeder.  Where are the foxes when we need them?  I've been hoping they'd come back.

I got my wish tonight but it wasn't quite the way I'd planned.  We came home from a wonderful dinner at our son and daughter-in-law's house.  Coco is an incredible cook and we sat around feeling lazy and visiting for awhile.  By the time we got back home, it was dark.  And the birds were still outside.

Chris went out to put them all away, knowing that the chickens would already be in their house and the geese would be anxious to be let out of their pen.  They guard the yard at night.  The ducks are the ones who spend their day with the run of the whole yard.  It's complicated because the different species do not get along.  The geese will pick on the chickens, sometimes literally picking them up and giving them a shake. The male duck, Harold (named after my uncle), has made himself very unpopular with the male goose because he's always chasing the female geese.  Harold is also unpopular with our female duck, whom I named Cecelia (after my aunt), because he's always chasing the female geese.  Harold would also chase the hens and would probably have gone after the female squirrels if he thought he could get away with it.

Cecelia was by herself, waiting to go into the yard.  Chris looked around and saw a pile of white feathers lying on the ground by my studio.  On further investigation, the pile of feathers turned out to be a Headless Harold. Unless Cecelia just got so fed up with him that she literally bit his head off, I have to assume that a fox got him.  We are going to have to be very watchful this week.  Once a fox finds a nice meal somewhere, they tend to come back for more.  The chickens will have an earlier bedtime now and Cecelia will be hanging out with the geese.  That's okay, because they get along with Cecelia just fine.  

If the foxes were going to make a come back by eating one of our birds, I guess Harold was the best one to go.  I can't even make myself be too upset by this.  The foxes are far more useful than Harold ever was.  I only hope that next time, the foxes find a squirrel or two for their dinner.