It's one am, but I am too wired to sleep. My senses are alert; I am waiting, listening.
A couple of hours ago, I woke up to the crashing of tin and the screaming of terrified chickens. A fox had gotten into our side pen, the one that houses our will-start-laying-any-day-now beautiful Plymouth Rock speckly girls, and two docile Australorp girls, as well as three very-noisy-but-not-quite-fat-enough-to-eat-yet young Plymouth roosters. Before we could get dressed and outside, he had killed three of the girls; the two Australorps and one speckled. Our next generation of laying hens, that we have been feeding from young chicks to now, has been halved.
We chased the fox out of the yard (if I only had a shotgun.......) and rounded up our traumatised brood of remaining chooks and locked them into the little shed. The fox hadn't had the chance to start eating, so we have fridged the carcasses in the back shed until morning, when we will process them. I'll be damned if I'm not going to at least eat them. After checking the older chooks in the back pen (all roosting and blissfully unaware) we climbed back into bed.
Not ten minutes later I heard the scrabbling of foxish paws on metal and bolted outside to find that wily fox in the side pen again, trying to dig its way into the little shed. I'd never have believed that chickens could sound so humanlike when they are terrified, but they were all huddled up, one on top of another, in the corner of the shed, wailing like mourners at a funeral. Nath came bolting in with a handful of rocks and an axe but the fox slipped out through a hole he had dug and vanished. I am sitting awake, waiting to hear him again, so we can try and kill him before he makes a meal out of any more of our hens.
I know it's Nature's way, I know that fox is doing what is natural to him, but I am furious at the wastage laid. It takes five or six months for hens to start laying, and in that time you get to know their funny little personalities, and you eagerly await the day that those months of feed and attention pays you back with their first egg. These chickens were the ones that would take over from our older girls, whose egg laying has become sporadic at best. I'm glad we can at least turn them into soup.
I stood outside tonight, in the chilly night air, wearing my pyjamas and barefeet, and I had that fox cornered between myself and a fence. He stared at me, his eyes flashing in the moonlight, and I saw his fear. His fur was up, his tail between his legs, and he quivered as he looked for a way to escape. As angry as I was that he had made my henhouse his hunting ground I feel strangely privileged to have been in that moment with him. It is a privilege anytime we are able to witness wild Mother Earth at her worst.