If you are a parent, you probably know the different kinds of crying sounds your children make. When they are babies, you know when the cry says “I am so tired I can’t see straight or manage my limbs – please someone, anyone, swaddle me and help me go to sleep.” When they are older, the cry sometimes says “I am really frustrated that I am not getting my way – and I hope mom hears me and comes in to scold my older brother.” Sometimes, the cry says “ I just fell down the stairs and broke my arm.” You just know it when you hear it.
Well, apparently, chickens have the same kind of crying language. And I have not learned it yet.
On Monday, I awoke at 5 a.m. to the sounds of the chickens clucking. The clucking was quite vigorous. And included a loud “bah-caaaawck” every so often. I sleepily thought, “oh those silly chickens – they certainly are having a good ole time this morning.” I thought, “maybe they are clucking to amuse themselves and I should find more chicken entertainment for them.” I then thought, “what if my mean neighbors complain? I better give those noisy chickens some scratch so they quiet down.” At about 5:30 a.m., I finally got up and looked out the window at the chicken coop, as I usually do – and I saw a fox digging at their coop! So this was what all the fuss was about! I hissed and the fox looked up momentarily – and promptly went back to his digging. I ran downstairs and let the dog out, which did scare away the fox. But the fox came back about 20 minutes later! He looked skinny and hungry and determined. Apparently, I have a fox problem. As well as a communication problem with my chickens.
So, on the morning of my son’s graduation from 5th grade (which is a bigger deal than you might imagine and was arguably the busiest day of the whole school year), this is what I did to protect my chickens from this mean, skinny fox who wants to eat them:
Step #1 – Dig a trench around the chicken coop. I made it about a foot wide and sloped the dirt away from the coop.
Step #2 – Cut hardware cloth (which, by the way, is not like cloth at all!) to fit in the trench and attached it with staple gun to the base of the coop.
Step #3 – Replaced the huge rocks I dug up and the dirt on top of the hardware cloth.
Step #4 – Did a dance, spinning around with my fingers pointing up in the air and sang, “la la la, you can’t get my chickens now, you dumb old mean skinny fox!”
I really wanted to do more to dissuade the fox from trying to get my chickens. When I asked for barbed wire at my local hardware store, I was told “I don’t know where farm people get that stuff.” I considered breaking some glass and mixing it into the dirt, but I figured it would just get dull over time. And the kids might step on it. I also thought about getting some rusty razor blades and strategically positioning them in the dirt right next to the base of the coop. In the end, I didn’t do any of that stuff. But I thought about it.
Foxes are fine and all – if they are not trying to get at my chickens. Clearly, the fox has not consulted with the squirrels in my yard, or he would know better than to mess with me. I do not tolerate misbehaving varmints.
So, now my dog is guarding the hen house. When she sits too close, the chickens peck at her behind. It doesn’t seem to bother her. She is used to them living in our yard now, but I am pretty sure she would “accidentally” eat them if she got the chance. I am not sure which is riskier – a fox guarding the hen house – or the dog!