The Nightmare Continues

As you know, a raccoon took my sweet Ethel in the dawn recently.  I say raccoon, because the manner of death and remains indicated a textbook raccoon killing.  I didn’t see it, but Keela sounded her ALERT bark around 6:30am.  I assumed it was rabbits and didn’t investigate.  Lesson learned, lesson learned.

I know raccoons are around.  Keela treed one in the late fall.  Lordy, what a racket they both made!  Long ago, when the kids were little, we had three baby raccoons come through our dog door into the house.  Seriously mean little animals.  I’ve not been a fan since that encounter.   There’s now a trap in the backyard along with cat food for bait.  I’ve set it every night.  So far, no luck.

BUT.  Three nights since then, between 2am and 4am, Keela has come UNGLUED barking. I’ve run to the back door and shone the spotlight.

Raccoon?  Nope. FOX. Good grief.  REALLY??

I watched that handsome animal jump the 4′ barnyard fence with room to spare.  It didn’t linger at all.  It looked more like a 50 yard dash through the yard than a stealthy attack on my hens.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.  My nightmare continues.  This time it was Thelma.  Sweet, sweet Thelma.  And the murderer was that damn, fence-jumping fox.

She never challenged anyone. They must have been sharing a recipe or something.

She never challenged anyone. They must have been sharing a recipe or something.

It was totally my fault.  At my nightly check I went out, counted heads, raised the food containers and told everyone goodnight.   I screwed the smaller door into the goat shed closed to protect Lucy.  I was comfortable that no animal in their right mind was going to jump over Doink, who sleeps right at the threshold in front of Louise and Sophia.  But after three years of not locking them up at night, I plain forgot the most important part. I didn’t lock the coop door.  The ladies pushed it open at dawn and went out into the barnyard.  Where the fox was waiting for Thelma.

She was a pretty, pretty girl.

She was a pretty, pretty girl.

I find it complex to be a human in charge of the care of my animals.  The whole circle of life thing depends on where my animals are in that circle.  Keela kills a squirrel or rabbit – YOU GO GIRL!  But a fox, probably just trying to feed her kits, comes into my barnyard and kills one of my girls?  I want to shoot her dead.  I have never touched a gun in my life.  I don’t eat meat.  Doesn’t matter.  You hurt mine?  I hurt you.  (I don’t even know what that MEANS.  But that’s how I feel.)

This entire problem is complicated by the fact that Keela is such a good guard dog.  Not a LGD in the barnyard obviously, but if I could let her out at 6am to scan the horizon, any animal coming close would be intimidated by her presence.  However, I have an unpleasant neighbor who thinks any dog barking before 10am negatively affects his health.  I cannot allow my dog to help me protect our animal family.

Such a good guardian.  Always on the job.  Maybe I should teach her sign language.

Such a good guardian. Always on the job. Maybe I should teach her sign language.

But I digress.  I can’t get rid of my neighbor anymore than I can magically make that fox disappear.  Such is life.

Thelma was a good hen, a Red Star who gave us many eggs.  She was pretty, except when she was molting, and her beautiful red neck feathers were a sight to behold. 

A chicken snow cone.  The girl knew a good thing.

A chicken snow cone. The girl knew a good thing.

This next part may not sit will with some, but for me it was like a sign from the universe.

As I was, again, picking up feathers, I found this.  So. freaking. perfect.  Like an angel wing. Which, I guess, it was.

It is just so, so, so perfect.  Just like she was.

It is just so, so, so perfect. Just like she was.

(Shared at Backyard Farming Connection, Maple Hill Hop, Tuesdays With A TwistHomestead Barn Hop, Clever Chicks HopHomesteaders HopSimple SaturdaysOld Fashioned FridayFrom The Farm HopSimple Lives Thursday, Home Acre Hop and Down Home Hop)


  1. I am so sorry for your loss – it really must be awful – but I can not help but think how poetic this really is – Thelma and Louise were best buds – BFF’s of chickendom – always together – even in death!

  2. Right now just have feelings, no words. But recognize the importance of these animals to you, and you to them. It’s a great bond.

  3. Oh nooooooooooo! I am so sorry Joan. I dislike the circle of life thing too, it’s sucks… Always. Both your girls had a wonderful life with you. Sadly the fox will be back since he knows the the girls are there. They are very wise predators. I hope he moves on and no one else is lost… How do you get rid of a fox without a gun?
    Jen recently posted…Let Your Ponies Run…

  4. So sorry Joan!! Do what you must!!

  5. I’m so sorry to hear this Joan. My little flock was also taken by a fox (and a neighbour’s uncontrolled dog but that’s another story) last year – and we had a 6ft high fence. We have a neighbour who traps and kills the foxes but as you say, the fox is doing what a fox will do which at this time of year is finding food for their babies. We now have a 7 ft fence, buried 2ft deep, a Maremma dog as a flock guardian and a lock on the chicken house door so they can’t get out before we’re around. So far so good …

  6. Monica Tannian says:

    Oh no, Ms. Thelma was the talk of your barnyard and I know you’ll (& the barnyard family) miss her. Like you mention in your blog – Nature’s give-n-take is hardly one our hearts make sense of.
    I admit it, I shed a tear for Thelma too when I read your news.

    You have a strong heart.
    Hugs to you.

  7. Please order some NiteGuard lights. Then place them around your barn and your coop. They work wonders!

    Linda recently posted…Computer Problems Continue– April 8, 2014

  8. Oh no! So sorry it happened again! At least now you know who the culprit is for sure. Hope the rest of the kids don’t start having stress-related issues. 🙁
    Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe recently posted…Kitchen Tip: How to Leak Proof a Foil-Lined Tray When Faced with a Short Roll of Foil

  9. I’m so sorry for your losses. I had no idea a fox could clear a 4 FT. fence. I had 4 lovely girls last yr. while living in MA. Our yard was fenced in with a chain link fence and 2 large dogs and fortunately, my girls never had an intruder. We have since moved to TN and 4 new baby chicks arrived today. I was so excited to have chickens again, but my buff isn’t eating or drinking. I’m dipping her beak in electrolyte water every half hr. I have tried to feed her scrambled eggs and yolk from a dippy egg. The Plymouth barred rock was pecking at her mates. Then the buckeye started and was relentless. My red star is the only one without an issue. They are finally resting peacefully, but I’m very worried for my buff. When they finally make it out of the brooder, I am going to have to give more thought to whether I will free range these girls. I have seen cats walk right through the bars of our fence, dead opossums and raccoons on our road and hawks and eagles in the area. As much as I hate to keep them contained, I’m not sure I can keep them safe if they are not.

  10. Wow….not again!!! What an emotional few weeks!
    Lori recently posted…life is beautiful

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I am sorry to hear about another of your chickens. Stealthy foxes. We have a neighbor who doesn’t like it when our dog barks and I tell them, she is doing her job. Part of providing for my family means that I can keep animals and my dog protects them. I haven’t resorted to telling him where to stick but you know, I just pretend I don’t notice his annoyed glances. Thankfully animal protect doesn’t fall under noise ordnances in our town. You might want to check into yours and see if the neighbor has any real say in whether your dog can protect your livestock or not. I understand about trying to be neighborly but if your dog will protect your girls, I say let that doggie do what she was born to do! Good luck tonight.

  12. I am so sorry! It’s just so heartwrenching to hear that you lost another girl. You posted a beautiful tribute to Thelma. She was a gorgeous girl. HUGS to you!
    Jen recently posted…Five Happy Things

  13. Oh no. So sad! So, between the raccoon and the fox, you must feel that you are between a rock and a hard place. And you can’t let your dog bark in the morning? That’s ridiculous! Most cities and towns (at least where I live) have a 6 AM noise ordinance – anything after that is supposed to be okay. I am so sorry, she was a beautiful girl.
    Vickie recently posted…Spring at the Future Homestead

  14. I’m so sorry for your loss! You have received some great advice on the comments above, and while I understand your hurt and anger, I just want to say that I hope you don’t decide to kill the fox, or any other predator. I have suffered an occasional loss to predators over the years, but I can honestly say that I never felt the desire to get even. I feel that we humans have to share the land with them, and can’t help but feel bad for them, because we have hogged up so much of their habitat. They don’t recognize our property anymore than we respect their territories. This is a long winded way of saying that I hope you continue to focus on prevention, rather than revenge. Best of luck. Found this post through Homesteaders Hop.
    janetpesaturo recently posted…Lemon Mint Frozen Yogurt with Chocolate Chips

    • I totally agree with your opinion, Janet. I just wish the fox would concentrate on the ridiculous bunny overpopulation around here. There’s LOTS of food for her to catch without coming into my barnyard!

  15. I am so sorry for your loss. I have been through it and it never gets any easier. Seems like we can never do enough to completely protect them. She was a beautiful girl and I am sure you will feel her loss. All we can do is fortify our efforts and move on. Blessings to you.

    Mary recently posted…National Grilled Cheese Day – Not!

  16. So sad! We’ve lost animals to predators in the past and it’s always heartbreaking. Last month we somehow forgot to lock up the coop and we got lucky. All the girls were fine. It happens to the best of us though.
    – Katie and Mark

  17. Oh no! So sorry to hear about Thelma. Praying for your heavy heart.
    daisy recently posted…The Maple Hill Hop 26

  18. My sympathies, Joan. 🙁 I have had a fox take some of my chickens too and it is a sad thing. Mine aren’t pets like yours, but it is still hard to accept. I hope you are able to lock things up and not have to kill an animal that is just behaving by instinct.
    lisa lynn recently posted…Giving Up On Goats?

  19. 🙁
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