Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Something was eating our chickens. About every five or six days, Ben would put his flock to bed at night and find that he was short one hen from the day before.

This was back in the spring, the same time I was scanning brochures, trying to select what type of chicks to order for our next flock. "I am not ordering little chicks until we know what is getting the chickens. They'd just be easy pickings for this varmint!" We had to solve this mystery before we could move ahead with our chicken farming.

So we waited and sleuthed and tried to discover the chicken-eating culprit.

Whatever the critter was, it also tried to make a meal of our cat. Kitty was big enough to fight back and survived the encounter, thanks to several rounds of antibiotics and over a month of indoor confinement.

Patton, our ferocious rooster, also suffered at the hands/paws/teeth of the fiend. Our noble defender-of-the-hen-house lost his spurs and his beautiful tail protecting his biddies. Apparently, Patton fought valiantly enough to put the thief at bay for a while, although the encounter left him meaner, grouchier, and crazier than ever.

Finally, months later, we had a positive ID on the chicken-killer. Ben went to let his chickens out one morning after a particularly rainy night and discovered very distinct, large paw prints around the coop: fox!

Alas, now we had a different dilemma. "The pelt will be worth waaaay more come winter...we can't trap that fox now, in the middle of summer!" Nate had a point. What to do? Guess we'd just have to be extra careful about battening down the hatches early each evening in an attempt to frustrate Mr. Fox until trapping season. And Kitty spends every evening and night indoors now, whether she approves or not.

Sadly, this is not the end of the tale. Patton, a mean rooster at best, must have been pushed too far by all the stress: he progressed from being ornery to being the Terror-of-the-Yard. I couldn't work in the garden or hang clothes on the clothesline without taking a chance that he would come racing across the yard to attack me. We couldn't take baby Maryanna outside for walks because Patton was always on the look-out, vigilant to attack any would-be threats to his harem. Eventually, his behavior grew so aggressive that it felt like we were being held hostage in the house - by a rooster, no less! Something had to be done.

One evening at dinner, after I'd worked a long day at Wal-Mart, Ben delivered the news: "Mom, I got rid of Patton today." Translation for any city folks: Patton is now in rooster heaven. Yes, I was a bit saddened by the news - he had been such a beautiful, hard-working rooster. But relief far outweighed any grief. "Thank you, Ben. Thank you so much." At last, I could get back to weeding my strawberry beds.

The remaining hens seem to be managing fine without their severe overseer to protect them. They are more social now, too, and will flock around you when you work in the garden or yard. Such sweet, pretty birds! And this fall, Mr. Fox will finally get to meet Mr. Nathaniel, so that next spring I can finally order a new batch of peeps.

So here is a summary of not-so-romantic life on the farm: Fox eats chickens. Fox severely injures cat. Fox attacks rooster. Rooster whips fox. Rooster attacks Mom and Sister and anyone else on two feet (except Ben, who is obviously at the very top of the pecking order!) Cat lives. Rooster dies. Fox - his days are numbered. And the rest of us, we're back at work in the garden, keeping a keen eye on the hens.

So we were talking the other day about people who have very sensitive hearts for animals. I'm one of those people - I was truly sad that Patton had to go. But there are those who are so extremely tenderhearted that they become irrational. The kind of people who think it is cruel to kill a fox, even if it kills chickens and cats. The kind of people who think that surely there must be a way to rehabilitate a demented, hormonal, crusty old rooster. The kind of people who really don't have any experience with animals on a farm or with the difficult realities of this life. Those folks....those are the folks I'd like to introduce to Patton. Bwahahaha!

This morning, the cat went out on the porch and took up her watch post underneath the nesting Pheobes. These beautiful little birds return every year to build their nest and raise a new family. Last week, we feared Kitty had successfully pounced Mama Bird. Bad cat! Thankfully, Mama Bird escaped. No, we're not going to kill Kitty... No way! Kitty kills mice! But we will keep a watchful eye on the Pheobes.

The drama just never stops here in the country...

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Eat or be eaten? That is the question. I tried to keep a beautiful rooster, too. But he became a delicious pot of chicken and dumplings the day he tried to flog me. As far as I could tell, the hens did not miss him at all!