Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘fox

I’m Told

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I didn’t go home last night. I’m told there were six eggs collected from the nest boxes yesterday. Sounds reasonable.

My schedule is a little askew. I shifted my hours at the day-job yesterday to work around a couple of appointments, which had me on the clock until almost bedtime last night. Instead of driving all the way home for an hour, I spent the night at the in-laws’ place.

After a few hours of sleep, I’m heading right back to the day-job to pick up where I left off. Covering for sick or vacationing staff is starting to feel like normal operating mode lately. I don’t remember what it feels like to focus on one task at a time anymore.

I missed a little excitement on the ranch yesterday evening. I’m told Cyndie and Delilah spotted a red fox on one of our trails. When it saw them, it turned around and headed back into the woods.

We know there are predators out there, but actually seeing them roaming the grounds brings on a little extra anxiety over our lack of a workable plan to keep them at bay.

Cyndie let Delilah hustle up the trail to where they had seen the fox, but in that amount of time, there was no longer anything to see. Still, maybe there is a chance the sight of Delilah alerting to the fox caused it enough stress that it will see our property as threatening.

No, I don’t actually believe that. I’m just practicing wishful thinking.

I’m also told that Delilah is looking all fit and trim after a visit to the groomer yesterday. Hopefully that doesn’t make her look less intimidating to unwelcome predators lingering on our grounds.

As tough as it was witnessing Delilah gobble up that little stunned songbird last week, I’d be just fine watching her put some teeth to a prowling fox to make a point.

Foxes not welcome! Fox sightings lead to fox bitings!

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Written by johnwhays

September 12, 2018 at 6:00 am

Night Visitors

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I finally relocated the trail camera. It’s still viewing the same general area, but it now sees from the other direction. Instead of facing the coop, I attached it to one of the legs so it is facing out from the coop.

If there was any question about whether the fox was still hanging around, or not, we got our definitive answer Monday night.

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I think it’s cute to see how the fox tips its nose up in the direction of the coop window. Might be picking up a familiar aroma there…

There are still plenty of rabbit sightings, and last night there were a couple of dark figures in the distance that defy positive identification. I get the impression that one of them was a local barn cat. Cyndie didn’t seem convinced, although neighbor cats are frequent visible visitors around our place.

There was no question about one other regular attendee to the coop area, although there are likely many more than just one trekking past throughout the night. Exhibit A:

I found some online advice yesterday about ways to keep foxes away. One farmer swears 100% success with his method. It’s urine. But, there’s a trick to it. The instructions insist you have to actually pee on the fox’s den. Oh, I suppose you could just collect specimens and dump them on there, but where’s the fun in that?

My problem with that solution is that I have no idea where the fox’s den is located. I should have followed tracks when there was still snow on the ground.

Putting out a live trap would catch more barn cats and raccoons than fox. The common opinion is that a fox is too smart to fall for that trick.

Last evening, after Cyndie brushed Delilah, she took all the dog hair down and distributed it around the coop. Delilah can’t stand guard there, but her scent can hang around all it wants, for whatever good that might do.

Frankly, we are growing more wary every day that a daylight attack on the chickens, similar to what occurred about this time last year, is not only possible, but likely.

In last night’s fading sunlight, I was hanging out with the flock as they lolled about between the coop and the paddock. Many of them showed a fondness for perching on the bottom board of the paddock fence, which reminded me of the behavior of last year’s flock, right before the June 16th massacre that dwindled their number.

For the time being, we’ve still got twelve chickens, and we are enjoying each of them to the fullest. And they seem to be enjoying us, as measured by their cute little hustle of approach when we are in their vicinity.

I wonder if they know how many visitors show up to their coop every night while they are sleeping.

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Written by johnwhays

June 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

How About

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I’m taking a little evil pleasure in Cyndie’s report that she spotted a lot of fox tracks along the southern trail yesterday, because I know there are no longer any easy pickings to be had here.

Driving home past the neighbor’s farm, I took particular interest in how many of their chickens were wandering about in the thoroughly exposed wide open. I will be completely befuddled if the fox visiting us from the woods between our land and that neighbor’s has been ignoring their flock.

Hoping we get a chance to chat with them about it soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing around with ideas on how we might proceed with our next twelve birds in light of the recent carnivorous outburst by the wild little member of the dog family. How about we domesticate the fox like we do dogs?

Allow me to stretch the boundaries of logic…

Here’s how it could go:

  • We trap the fox and attach a shock collar. We still don’t know if it’s a male or female. Since pups are born needing total care from the momma, it’s the father that hunts for the kits when they are young. Our visitor could be either.
  • We place customized high technology chips into each chicken, programmed to trigger the shock collar within 20 feet proximity.
  • Then we sit back and watch the perfect solution play out.

If foxes are so intelligent, it shouldn’t take long at all for this one to learn that our chickens are now off the menu.

It could even become a money-maker for us. We could offer to “chip” our neighbor’s chickens, too, for a small handling fee.

Maybe, as long as we’re stretching reality here, we could also have the collar release a scent of moles, voles, and rabbits after the fox leaves the chickens alone, to entice it toward a more preferred hunting focus.

In a world where we are moving toward driverless cars, smart speakers that control home life, and robots with unknowable artificial intelligence potential, my simple chicken protection/fox control idea seems downright quaint.

How about that?

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Written by johnwhays

April 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

Quick Fox

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That didn’t take long.

From the looks of the feathers that flew, the Buff put up a fight yesterday morning.

Cyndie found the lifeless body beyond the hay shed, not far from our property border to the north. That is a long way from where the trail camera captured the fox crossing our trail in the woods, but it is in the same general northerly direction. We think we have a pretty good idea about what direction from which the threat originates.

Meanwhile, my relocation of the trail cam did not produce the hoped for results. I’m guessing the motion of moving branches was triggering the captures. I scanned 722 images and found one with a nice face shot of a squirrel and one blur of a smaller squirrel leaping through the air. Nothing else, beyond wiggling branches.

Having read about the superb cunning of fox behavior, and their ability to learn patterns of our movement, I’m even more impressed over the great snapshot we have from the morning last week when the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens were dispatched.

It is not lost on us that the elusiveness of this predator has kept us entirely blind to its presence, beyond the one picture. Even though it has obviously been active during the day when we are out and about, neither of us has ever seen it with our own eyes.

Foxy, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2018 at 6:00 am

Being Stalked

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She’s all alone, but not alone. Our sole survivor from last year’s brood, this amazing Buff Orpington, has finally ended her non-stop calling for her two most recent missing companions.

She has avoided death on multiple occasions, once even getting bloodied from a too close encounter within Delilah’s jaws. Now, left to fend for herself alone on the roost in single-digit cold overnight temperatures, she seems to be doing her best to tough out her rather dire situation.

The hungry spring predators appear to be stalking with unprecedented boldness. Based on our experience the last five years, the number of roaming tracks in the snow during daylight hours has picked up significantly.

Yesterday, every time we turned around there were fresh tracks showing up in areas we had recently walked, and they weren’t all the same. I would guess a dog or coyote, probably a cat, and definitely that troublesome fox.

I pulled the memory card from the trail camera, only to find the sly critter had completely avoided detection. Based on her travel pattern, I have relocated the camera, pointing it off the trail into the woods where I hope to catch her looking more into the view, as opposed to walking across it. This will also reduce the repeating shots of Delilah and us walking the trail that tends to clutter the results.

If you look at the shot of the fox I posted the other day, she was leaving our property with nothing in her mouth. Following yesterday’s tracks led us to two different spots where a large number of feathers revealed locations where the future meals had been stashed.

Cyndie wondered about putting extra effort to protect the buff against the obvious stalkers, and as a result, we did end up coercing her back into the coop early in the afternoon. One way I look at the possible inevitability of her fate is that it would save us needing to convince the year-old chicken to accept the twelve new chicks (now looking a lot like “tweens”) that will soon be moving to the coop.

By the time the next brood makes it to the free-ranging stage of life, the phase of ravenous spring predation will have calmed to the occasional massacre by some roving set of fangs like we suffered last June. Then we’ll find out which of our new birds are as cunning and lucky as the Barred Plymouth Rocks and our lone Buff Orpington were.

It’s no wonder why free-range birds are so precious.

It’s a jungle out there. So to speak.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2018 at 10:04 am

Last One

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And then there was one. Cyndie came inside from feeding the horses yesterday around dinner time and reported that the Buff Orpington was the only chicken under the barn overhang.

The chickens are usually eager for her afternoon chores because they get a fresh serving of treats to eat. It was uncharacteristic for the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens to not show up. In addition, it was snowing like crazy, so it seemed odd that they would be off gallivanting around the property without the Buff.

That pointed to nothing good.

I put on my winter gear and joined Cyndie and Delilah in a scouting mission around the grounds. We circled past the trail cam, and I grabbed the memory card from it.

Cyndie had picked up three eggs from the coop in the afternoon, but our search didn’t come across any tracks revealing recent activity in the vicinity.

We headed inside with a sinking feeling of more loss.

For all the multitude of empty scenes that regularly show up on the trail cam, this time we landed one positive ID out of the nine images on the card.

That little fox walking toward the fence was ten minutes ahead of Cyndie and Delilah walking down that trail on their noon trek. They never saw it, but I bet Delilah smelled the scent.

We took a tiny bit of solace in the fact there was no chicken in the fox’s mouth in the image.

At dusk, with a looming trepidation, Cyndie went down to close the coop. The Buff was in there all by herself. With Delilah, Cyndie walked one more loop around the back pasture for any sign of what may have happened.

It was Delilah who took noticeable interest in a dark spot inside the fence. Cyndie tied Delilah outside and climbed through the wires and found the proof of our worst fear.

Now we are wondering if we will be able to accelerate the introduction of our new chicks to the lone surviving chicken from last year’s flock. The poor girl must have been cold and lonely all alone last night in the coop.

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Written by johnwhays

April 3, 2018 at 6:00 am

Morning Visitor

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When I moved the trail cam away from the coop to provide a better view, I also adjusted a setting so it would only capture one image per trigger. I felt that getting 400 images in one 24-hour period was a little excessive. The first day after making these changes, there were zero pictures.

The batteries had died.

I replaced the batteries and prepared for the new views.

Now I am going to reset the number of images per trigger. In the past few days, we ended up getting only a single image from each overnight span of hours. The images captured in the first two nights were simply a pair of eyes in the dark. For some reason the camera isn’t taking a second image before the visitor departs. There’s probably another setting I need to review for time between triggers.

The good news is, thus far, the predators aren’t loitering around searching for ways inside the coop.

This morning, in the minutes when the sun was beginning to appear over the horizon, the cam snapped more than just a pair of eyes. We are guessing it very well could be the same critter whose eye reflections glowed the other two nights.

Here is our first view of the fox checking out our hen house.

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Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2017 at 9:24 am