I turned in the driveway last Tuesday evening after driving more than two hours back from a worm-farming conference in Raleigh, through three thunderstorms, quarter-sized hail and tornado warnings. There was still plenty of daylight, and I saw a red fox toting one of my future laying hens across a pasture.
I zoomed down to the barn and got in my farm truck, where I keep a single-shot 20-gauge shotgun, and went to head off the fox.
After a chase along the pasture, I finally saw it crossing my brother's driveway. I jumped out and chased it through the woods until I drew a bead on it, but I did not pull the trigger. It was out of range.
Our main laying flock consists of more than 100 hens, but we have had a separate flock of 20. It's a pain managing two groups of layers. I had moved most of the smaller flock in with the main flock Saturday night, but there were seven renegades roosting and making a mess in the barn.
Later Tuesday night after dark, I went out to catch the outlaws and carry them to the rolling hen house.
Chickens are night blind and easy to catch after dark, and introducing new hens into the pecking order at night helps prevent trouble.
While I was moving the barn-roosting hens, I scanned the area with my flashlight. I saw a set of green eyes reflecting back at me 100 yards away. I grabbed my gun and walked that way.
I figured it was a fox, but I won't shoot unless I identity what I am shooting at. I got within 20 feet of the fox and saw it was a juvenile. It was not the fox that carried off my hen – that was probably his mother.
I did not shoot the fox. That fox will probably cause me problems later on, too. But it was doing nothing wrong at the time, just sitting at the end of a row of tomatoes digging up and eating grubs that will turn into Japanese beetles.
We share this piece of ground with other life forms and I hesitate to eradicate them just to make my life easier.