My husband and friends had carefully packed the tiny Toyota Echo to the roof with all the things they needed for a medieval reenactment weekend 12 hours away in Montreal. Picture a clown car with three burly guys, swords, cloths, and camping gear. But they had forgotten the decaf coffee that my husband drinks. Just as they pulled back into our driveway, they spotted a fox attempting a daring daylight raid on our fenced poultry yard. Jumping out of the car, they ran it off just as it was ready to leap into the yard by our sheds.
Happy to Go to Bed Early
The chickens, the gander, and ducks usually wander about the fenced-in yard, eschewing attempts to put them away early. But they were very aware of the fox and had herded up into a tight formation with the gander alerting. After we had scared off the fox, we scooped up the feathered gang and put them back in the sheds for the rest of the day. For once, no one complained about the pre-dusk rehousing. We’ve always been so careful with our critters housing and this brought home the reason why!
Variety of Predators
Over the years we’ve had a steep learning curve about critter safety. We live rurally, so raccoons have been a constant three-season pest, along with the occasional skunk. For the last two years, we’ve had a fox den in the area. The “decaf-coffee” fox sighting has been the closest encounter with the fox, even though I saw footprints this winter outside the fenced yard. Luckily, the bald eagle family we have locally has avoided my critters, although I have less trust for the red tailed hawk we sighted just this fall. To keep the birds safe, our large backyard has a fenced perimeter and three solid 6-foot by 12-foot sheds converted into critter homes with lockable doors. Wired for electricity to run overhead lights, each shed has heated waters buckets, and suspended heat lamps in the winter. They also have cute names on plaques so we can easily locate members of our feathered family.
Home Sweet Homes
The Red Hackle is the main chicken coop, although it is also home to the Call ducks. It is named for my father’s service with the Black Watch Highland Regiment who wear the Red Hackle as part of their uniform . Chickens who want a time-out from the Red Hackle’s drama live in the Cracked Egg with the ducks I’ve had the longest. The Goose and Mallard houses most of the larger breed ducks, and geese tend to hang out there as well. Curiously, the bantams fight for time in the laying shelf in the Goose and Mallard. The critters get full choice on where they want to be each night and sometimes the resulting politics are amusing. They are locked up from near dusk each night until I get my sorry butt out of bed to Release the Quackens! each morning.
We were Lucky
After the burly boys chased off the fox, we gathered all the birds back into these three refuges. I was, as always, calling “Ducks Home” as the ducks won’t budge without those sing-song words (sometimes peppered with profanity). Today we avoided what could have been heart-wrenching, but with all things nature, luck will always a big part of keeping the flock safe. Today we were lucky.
Sarah Paterson lives in Rural Nova Scotia, with her teenage son, long-suffering husband, and many critters she calls family. Writing stories about her life with ducks and chickens is finally using that BA she earned at St Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When she is not looking after her family, she runs a take-out pizza shop from the back of her 1870’s Victorian home. Greetings from Great Village.