phew … it’s been a big week here in Bootville. Classes started afresh for the academic year. All 7am starts – very tiring for this out of practice would-be-nurse. And in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, a fox broke into the chooks’ house and killed Benny and Souffie – ripped out their throats. It was my fault. I’d been leaving the door to their house open over summer as the nights have been so hot and still. I didn’t want them to feel hot and yucky. Now two are dead instead. So stupid!
It was so horrible. We were woken by the terrible noise made by the first of our girls to be killed – she cried out in such terror and agony whilst her sisters went bonkers with fright, banging and flapping about the house.
By the time Julian had exploded out the back door and raced through the garden to their enclosure, the next girl to be killed cried out in the same horrible way. Meanwhile, poor Nog and Lettie had managed to get out of the fox’s way and were frantically trying to get out the gate – in fact, they ran out as Julian ran in. We found Nog pretty easily – she was hiding in the Vietnamese basil, but Lettie secreted herself so well, we didn’t spy her again until well and truly after the sun had risen.
Poor, poor Benny and Souffie. I know death is part of keeping animals, and anyone who’s ever kept chickens has experienced Mr. Fox at least once. But boy oh boy … when Julian carried their still warm bodies out of the enclosure to put them somewhere safe until morning when we could bury them, I cried. When I cracked my next egg, the following day, I cried. Abby cried. It was awful. But the way of the natural world I guess. My Uncle Keith used to lose his chooks to carpet snakes – ugh! He’d go down in the morning and there’d be a carpet snake – too fat with all the chooks he’d eaten to get back out. Family consensus is, if we were chooks and the occasion arose when we were about to become another animal’s dinner, we’d rather a fox than a carpet snake. Though scant comfort at the moment, I must say.
As for Mr. Fox – we didn’t even see him leave he was so quick and sly. We have carefully searched along the perimeter’s edge – we think he got in where the chickens had themselves dug a small hole under the wall of their house, where it butts up against the sewing shed. The fox could have gotten under the sewing shed – as does Fu, but the thought a fox would do it simply hadn’t crossed our minds because he would have to have gotten into our garden first, which has quite sturdy 6 foot fences – and then, with a bit of wiggling, through the hole and pop! into the house.
I’ve since read that foxes can spring over a six foot fence from a standing position on the ground. Good grief. I’ve also read that the end of summer is a prime time for an increase in attacks as the spring born cubs learn to hunt for themselves. And here in our neighbourhood, an abandoned house which was home to a huge number of foxes, was pulled down last week – maybe those foxes have found new homes closer?
Extra mesh has been dug in, heavy rocks have been laid on top. Regardless of the heat, that chook house door will be securely shut every night for ever more. And – just in case it works – we’ve taken a leaf out of Hugh F-W’s book and are peeing on the fence. Well – you know, peeing into a container and throwing it on the fence. Folk wisdom suggests the scent of urine – especially male – deters foxes. Others say it does nothing at all. Might as well give it a go.
Meanwhile, Nog and Lettie are stumbling on. Nog lost a lot of feathers – you can imagine that the fox grabbed her by a clump of feathers and when she jumped, they just came out – she has bald patches between her shoulder blades and around her tail and butt. She looks a wreck – but seems pretty confident still. Nog’s always been a bit dim.
Lettie, on the other hand, has no visible signs of attack at all, but is a nervous wreck. She’s always been very sweet – always talks to me when I go near, drops herself at my feet ’cause she loves to be carried and stroked, a very friendly and relaxed chook. Now, if she was human, she’d be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The first day, she stood by the water bowl with her head drooping and eyes closed. It was so sad. The next morning when I opened the door she stood in it silently, and every few moments, would put her head and look one way, then the other. She did this for a good five minutes before deciding it was safe to come out.
But today, Lettie’s made herself a dust bath and is dozing in the sun. And Nog’s being Nog – bumping about, chattering away to herself and munching grain. No eggs since the attack – I’ve read this is very normal. And they may never lay again. We’ll see.
So – big week. Tiring week. Sad week. Oy. By Friday, I needed something to soothe my spirits – some new wool from Wondoflex’s bargain basement (only open Fridays and Saturdays and literally in the basement) – 12 ply for $25 for a bag of 10 balls. Perfect for knitting Abby her 2013 jumper – Kate Davies’ Owls. Round, and round and round – and on those 6.5mm needles it’s rising like well yeasted bread.
Hopefully next week will be a bit more gentle. Autumn has certainly arrived with a jolt.