Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mourning a chicken, nursing a chicken, cursing a fox

It was a rough weekend at the S&S homestead, starting at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

That's when I was awakened by a strangled squawk. I lay in bed for another half a minute wondering what exactly I had just heard, until a frantic racket sent me flying out onto the deck shrieking. I won't go into the gory details, but after waking Steve up, we searched the backyard with a flashlight (note to self: must buy more and better flashlights) we found the body of Luna, one of our four-month old Americaunas. In the garage (I left the back door open on a day full of gardening, an Easter egg hunt with one neighbor family and a BBQ at another family's house that went late into the evening), the other Americauna was missing. Our Buff Orpington pullet was huddled safely in the pen.

After another search of the yard, we retreated inside to comfort Maddie who had woken and was distraught. I was particularly upset that Luna's death had been all for naught, as the fox had dropped her and fled, and I considered taking her out to the marsh preserve a mile away where neighbors told us a fox kits every year, but Steve thought we shouldn't give them a taste for chickens.

As we were laying in bed, we suddenly heard another chicken racketing. "Oh my god, it's back and it's got another one," I thought. Steve ran out this time, I couldn't face another tragedy. He came back in with Hawk, our missing Americauna.

Our best guess is, the fox grabbed Hawk and she fell unconscious, as I think chickens may be prone to do under great stress. She took her to the back of the yard and stuffed her under a woodpile (Steve stood on the woodpile and he was looking over the fence in our first frantic survey of the yard and heard not a peep from Hawk under his feet, so she was probably still unconscious, but safely protected from his weight, I might add, by the structure of the pile), then the fox went back for Luna, who put up more of a fight and sent me flying out onto the deck, which caused the fox to drop her in the yard and flee. Then, sometime later, Hawk came to in shock and disress and began calling for her flock.

We got her in and wrapped up warm, daubed some betadine on the puncture wound we could see on her back, and set her in a box in the bathroom to stay warm. In the morning, she was still looking alert and Steve did a more thorough inspection, found two more puncture wounds on the underside and washed and disinfected those. I'd gotten on the Backyard Chickens forum at 3:30 in the morning and asked about wound care and had gotten some great advice, which we followed. I wanted to take Hawk into the veterinary school's teaching hospital Saturday morning after Steve found the additional bites, but they were going to charge a weekend fee of $95 right off the bat, so we decided to see how she'd do on her own.

After two days in a dark box, she was ready to be interacting, calling softly when we left her room. We brought in Minimax, our young Buff Orp and her sole remaining flockmate, and they cozied up together on the wire shelf over the bathtub that Steve had rigged as a perch. At first Max really wanted to groom Hawk's dissarrayed feathers over the wound, but we kept pushing her away and she stopped trying after a while.

They sat together for half a day on the shelving, then I came in to check on them and nearly bowled them over with the door -- they'd begun wandering the bathroom. So into the garage pen they went. Hawk's eating and drinking (and pooping, had some lovely bathroom cleanup to do), and they've mostly sat quietly together in the straw. Max has been a good companion.

Meanwhile, we had a ceremony to bury Luna, whom we lost under a nearly full moon on Good Friday night. We buried her next to the compost pile Sunday evening. Yesterday morning, I noticed a small hole had been dug over her grave, and attributed it to Sunny nosing around there. This morning, Steve said, "You were right that the fox would keep coming back." He'd found a significant hole dug into Luna's grave, and when he probed to see how deep it went, he found only her empty shroud. Somehow, I felt much better knowing that her death hadn't been for naught, that she had fed some fox kits after all.

Several people have suggested we get a gun a shoot the fox. I would never do that, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is, I'd just have to shoot the next one, and the next one and the next one, until we had a plague of rabbits, mice and voles in our neck of town.

We'll keep a sharp eye out for signs of the fox trying to get to our other girls, but I think they're well protected. We're closing off Sunny's dog door out of the garage at night now, and the girls in the coop under the deck are protected by wire dug under the ground and in an L shape out from the fence.

It's been a rough and painful lesson to learn for me, an opportunity, as unwanted as it may be, for the kids to begin to learn how to process grief, and a meal for a handful of hungry kits.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Another couple of stunning youtube videos....

The first one is fascinating, the second is jaw-dropping...


The elephant one is so unbelievable, that I went and googled it after posting. Here's an article that explains what's happening in it...