This time of year, predators are more of a concern here on the farm. Spring is when they are bolder in the hunt for food to feed their babies. I had always thought our pony Caddy deterred predators from coming too close to the chickens. But now I have found out, not always. Our dog, Cora had been barking all morning. That is not at all unusual, she is a little bit like the boy who cried wolf, except she doesn’t do it for fun. She sees something that wasn’t there before, and she feels compelled to alert us to the issue. Sometimes it’s a vehicle that is parked in a different spot, or maybe the wind blew something like a bucket into the yard. I did get up and check but didn’t see anything that she might have seen.
A little later when I looked up from my office window, I noticed Caddy and Midnight looking down at the bottom of the hill. I got up to see what they were looking at and saw all the guinea hens down at the bottom very upset about something. I saw something orange and at first, I thought it was our big orange barn cat George. On closer look I realized it was a red fox! I immediately started down to chase it away before he got any chickens. The fox was distracted by the angry guineas, until it saw me. Then it picked up the dead chicken, that I had not noticed before and ran up the hill and disappeared into the woods. I tried to follow it up the hill, but it was gone without a trace of it or the chicken it stole.
I made my way back to the barn and called the birds into their pen. I took a head count and was missing two chickens! Now I have a dilemma, do I keep them safely locked up or continue to let them free range. Obviously, the problem with letting them free range is we take the chance of providing chicken meals for baby foxes. On the other hand, if I keep them cooped up (pun intended) not only will the chickens be unhappy, but the guinea fowl will be angry and they tend to take out their frustrations on the chickens, which they need very little reason to do anyway. For now I will try to let them out later in the morning and pay more attention when Cora is barking.