Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What I Believe

We had a good scare yesterday thanks to my young flock of chickens.  We have nine chickens, four of which have turned out to be roosters (to be dealt with soon) so I am used to a certain amount of squawking and positioning as the young roosters come of age.  The chicken coop is adjacent to our vegetable garden so this time of year I am able to let the chickens out of their run to free-range.  They are still young enough that they generally stay within sight of the coop.

Yesterday I was busy packaging soap for our upcoming weekend gallery event so I was in the house.  Heidi, our young Pyrenees was loose on the farm.  I heard a chicken kurfuffle down in the garden but thought nothing of it.  Later on in mid-afternoon I took a walk down toward the garden.  All of a sudden I had a weird feeling.  It took a few moments but I realized there were no chickens scurrying and scratching around in the old mulch.  In fact, there were no chickens anywhere.  Usually on a sunny afternoon they are busily searching for food.  I dashed to the coop and looked inside.  There were two roosters and two hens huddled  together on the roost. That meant that three hens and two roosters were missing.

The possiblities flashed through my mind.  Did Heidi our young Pyrenees have something to do with this?  She is not around the chickens too much but everytime I have had her with them she basically ignores them, even when they fly up around her.  Did they manage to fly over or squeeze through the field fence into the large yard where our Spinoni (bird dogs) were?  I noticed that two of the dogs were particularly agitated.   Did that screaming fox that passed through the farm the night before return with his fox friends and snag five chickens?  Maybe a hawk swooped down and snagged one but where are the other four? 

I was devastated.  I realized how attached I had become to my relatively new flock.  Besides, all these chickens were given to me by friends and  I had promised to care for them and keep them safe and now five were gone.  Just GONE.  I mounted a search.  Don hopped on the ATV and started looking around the vicinity.  Relatively soon I found one young rooster hiding in the shed next to the garden.  He was clearly traumatized but unharmed.  Okay, now I had three roos and two hens.  These chickens had obviously headed for cover so I checked our large barn.  No chickens anywhere.  I looked around up in the nearby shrubby woods. I looked everywhere I could think of.  No chickens, no feathers, no nothing.  After an hour or so I peeked in the coop.  Yay!  Another rooster had returned sometime while I was off searching.  Hopefully they were all just hiding somewhere.  As I continued my search a brown hen came racing across the garden from the direction of the big barn.  Double yay!!!  Another one returned.  It was Cheeky, one of my favorites.  I was starting to feel better, but I was still missing two of my five hens.  I looked around and saw my big rooster running toward the coop from the direction of the driveway.  Apparently they had really scattered after some kind of attack.  After a few more minutes of looking, I decided to go back to the house and finish working on my soap project.  An hour or so later I couldn't stand the suspense so I walked back down to the coop.  Blackie was on the roost with her buddy cheeky.  Yippee!

Cheeky (left) and Blackie (right).

Although I was really happy, I couldn't help but believe that something had probably snagged the one remaining hen, my little Barred-Rock pullet.  I was really sad.  In our previous years of having chickens we had never lost a bird. I felt I had failed my flock and my friend.  By now it was late afternoon and it would soon be dark. I dreaded thinking about closing up the coop for the night in an hour or so without my little hen tucked safely inside.

Just before dusk I went back to the coop to check on my traumatized birds and lo and behold my little Barred Rock hen was sitting on the roost!  I was so happy to see them all together again.

Barred Rock pullet who now needs a name.

I checked all the chickens briefly and all seemed unharmed.  I realized how relieved I was to have my little flock safely tucked in their coop for the night.  I suppose I will never know what happened that afternoon but I strongly suspect the fox.  Now I am wondering if Heidi may have actually helped save them from what ever attacked.  I think that is what I will choose to believe.

Final note:
I had never heard a fox scream before and it was enough to make us jump on our ATV's and race to the back field pistol in hand (literally) where our bucks live expecting to find one of the large cats, rumored to hide in these relatively unpopulated areas, attacking our goats.  Apparently it is the mating call of the female.

In case you have never heard a fox scream here is a link to the sound we heard that night. 


  1. I've heard that sound before. Never knew it was a fox. Are you going to take any more precautions to protect your flock?

  2. I don't think so. I keep them locked up tight at night anyway and I'll just let the big dog do her job of keeping things away.

  3. Yeah Heidi~!!! I have told so many other farmers about her and your training prohram.

  4. Barred Rock Pullet: Grace or Gracie....

    1. Gracie! Perfect. I love it!! Thanks.