Amanda has over a decade's worth of homesteading experience: gardening, canning, butchering chickens, milking cows, and making maple syrup.
Wild Animals Mingle With Farm Animals on Our Farm
There is never a dull moment when you live on a farm. Often times, what is happening outside the window is more interesting than what’s on TV. One night, I was bringing my alpacas in to protect them from coyotes. I did this by waving my arms and directing them toward the barn. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one alpaca standing by itself and headed that direction waving my arms, not really paying attention. When this alpaca didn’t turn tail and head for the barn, I looked more closely and realized that it was not an alpaca at all, but a deer I was trying to direct to the barn! The deer was staring at me rather bewildered. When our eyes met, it turned and ran into the woods. Another time, late at night, I was feeding the cats in the shed. I was wearing a head lamp to see in the dark when I noticed a cat crouched in the corner. It’s tail looked funny, so I walked right over and bent down to get a closer look with my head lamp. That’s when I realized it was not a cat, but an opossum!
On our farm, we make a real effort to live at peace with the surrounding wildlife. But sometimes there are clashes between the two and we need to protect our farm animals. This next story is about Vixen, a female fox that raises her babies in our lower barn each year. Vixen has never given us any trouble even though our chickens, ducks and geese run free on the farm. At the time of this story, we had four livestock guardian dogs that were trained to protect the birds. Two of the dogs were old and we had two pups that were in training.
Free Range Poultry in Peril
I was at the chicken shed, trying to convince the hens that it was time to go to bed when a swift motion caught my eye. I saw my daughter climb over the pole gate and run out into the pasture. Not far behind her, my other two daughters followed. I looked where they were headed and saw a fox running away. The ducks and geese had been out in that pasture foraging shortly before. Normally the guard dogs would be on duty, but the puppies had been breaking into the duck pen and cornering the ducks, so they were locked up. I shut the door to the shed and headed that way to see what was going on.
Vixen and a Missing Duck
As I walked through the orchard, I passed a duck sleeping peacefully under a tree. Her leg stuck up funny and I knew this was the duck that had broken her leg years before. It never healed quite right, but she got around just fine. I looked up and saw my daughter. She was back on this side of the gate and I could tell she was crying. I knew the fox had killed one of her beloved ducks. She came toward me. I gave her a hug as she sobbed and asked which duck it was. She replied incomprehensibly through her sobs. I tried again… same result. One more time… “daaaarrrrlllinnnggg duuuucckkkk!”
I flew into action, running as fast as I could toward the lower barn. The fox has raised her babies there for the past several years. As I ran, I started to wonder what I was going to do. I knew that a momma protecting her babies could be dangerous. I looked around and saw a large stick… or small log… laying on the ground. I picked it up and took it with me.
Baby Foxes in Our Barn
When I got to the barn, two or three little foxes were running around playing. This surprised me. I hadn’t realized the babies were that old already, as we had just started seeing the momma last week. I started barking and growling like a dog. The babies looked at me in surprise and ran into the den. I wanted them to stay in there, so as I walked I banged the stick on the ground and made lots of noise. I looked around for the duck… no duck. No feathers. No blood. Slowly, my daughter’s words came to me… “darling duck”. Isn’t she the one I just passed sleeping in the orchard?
I laughed as I realized what had happened. Darling Duck hadn’t been with the group, so my daughter assumed she had been taken by the fox. Poor Vixen. Poor babies. Here I was barking and growling like a maniac (which I’m sure is what the neighbors thought) and the fox hadn’t even killed a duck. I walked back through the pasture, just to be sure I didn’t see any feathers or blood. When I got back to my daughters, they had discovered Darling Duck asleep in the pasture. My daughter said that she had seen something in the fox’s mouth… maybe a rabbit. So, the ducks lived to see another day and I’m sure Vixen will think twice before crossing the pasture with her dinner again!
© 2019 Amanda Buck