"What are all gone?" I asked with my eyes still closed.
"The chickens," he reported, "the foxes got them all."
|Fox #2 (left of barn) guarding chickens morning after the raid|
I sat bold upright, still foggy from sleep, and tried to comprehend the details..."What does 'gone' mean? Did they escape? Are there remnants? How did he know it was the foxes? Does he mean the big chickens or our little hand raised pullets?"
As he filled me in on his grizzly chicken house discovery, I began to sob. I know we raise our own food, so animal death shouldn't bother me, but discovering that our sustenance has been ripped away from us--our time, our money and our tender loving care--by a predator, that, in town, possesses more rights to survival than we do drove me to anguish.
Perhaps, my response was also enhanced by the events of the two days prior to the devastation.
* * * * * * * * * * *Monday morning, we were awoken by Ruth's hysterical barks. I had been laying in bed, semi-conscious, listening to her woof for about an hour before her barking escalated to a fever pitch. Assuming she was just doing her job of defending the property from marauding foxes, I laid there considering whether to wake hubby to perform a spotlight inspection of the chickens. But the new intensity to her bark woke both of us. Hubby jumped out of bed and opened the blind, and a split second later, grabbed his Glock and the spotlight and headed for the front door.
The headlights he alarmingly saw on our property belonged to the cops. The investigating officer, seeing our spotlight, reversed & headed to the front door. I heard most of his comments to Hubby: "We received a complaint about your dog barking. This is your only warning; the next call we get will result in a ticket."
Hubby interjected to explain she was only trying to scare off the foxes, but the cop cut him off. "Just keep her quiet or I'll have to cite you."
Hubby put the Glock away and came back to bed, but neither of us slept very well for the next 2 hours before the alarm went off.
The day went on as usual, Hubby at work, the kids and I starting a new homeschool unit. On our way back from taking Hubby lunch, I grabbed the mail to find an unexpected letter from the Town, which went something like this:
It has come to the Town's attention that you currently house cattle on your property, which is a violation of the zoning restrictions cited here...blah, blah, blah...you are required to remove the cattle by April 29th; please call me to inspect the property on or before that date. Sincerely, the new Chief Planner
|Momma Cow, Decalf & Blacky on the property last fall|
Lack of sleep and anxiety over the potential of a noise disturbance citation still plaguing my guts, I felt my stomach infused with a new dose of adrenaline. "Lose my cows? Our source of meat for the year? They have no right," I ranted in my mind. "Preventing my family from growing its own food is a direct violation of my divine right to life and liberty! Where's the government established to protect my rights? It's been replaced by town bureaucrats who take pleasure in telling residents what they can and cannot do with their own land..." Let's just say it was all down hill from there.
For the next 3 hours until Hubby got home, I sat down and crafted letter after letter in response to the Town, called the other families I knew in town that graze cattle on their land to find out if the Town had ever threatened them, and tried to work out a "Plan B" in case the Town won and we ultimately had to relocate the cows...where would they go? What would it look like to have to drive somewhere to "visit" our livestock?
When Hubby did get home to hear the news, he reacted as I did: incensed, overwhelmed, saturated with the hostility pouring out of the town we've called home for 9 years. Our property predates the existence of the Town by 20 years. It remains one of the last few intact working farms in the town, and was only annexed prior to us purchasing it for the tax revenue it could generate. Our southern property line is the invisible division between "town" and "county" land, though no discernible difference exists between the use of the two properties.
Despite its history here, ever since we've owned the land, we've had to defend every right that came with it. First it was fencing, then water, then access, and now, which animals we're permitted to graze in our pastures.We've been robbed, threatened, attacked, sued, and threatened some more. And yet, we do not retaliate. We lovingly cultivate the ground, enhance the landscape, groom the pastures, and upgrade the house, living on and nurturing every square inch of this land we call home. Our neighbors' property values soar because of their scenic views across our land, but we are ceaselessly surrounded by hungry predators hoping to devour what is rightfully ours. What a relief it will be when this place finally chooses a new owner to fight for it.
So, Wednesday morning, when I was awoken to the news of catastrophic loss in the chicken house, I was inconsolable. "Why does this place want us to die? We are only trying to mind our own business, feed ourselves, teach our kids good values...but they want us to fail, they want us to cry 'uncle'."
* * * * * * * *It seems unfair that wild animals, that we knew had targeted our chickens as their preferred food source, could possess more rights in this town than we do. We simply aren't permitted to defend our food from these predators, the dog can't bark to scare it off, we can't shoot it, and we can't trap it. We just have to lie down and wait for the two foxes to dig under the chain link fence and devour 31 out of our 35 birds. Our entire future of homegrown eggs and meat was gone in one morning.
But, today is another day. The foxes, now labeled "nuisance wildlife", are no longer protected, and the traps are in place awaiting their next attempt. Four chickens remain of our flock: 2 aged leghorn hens and 2 Brahma pullets that were being picked on so badly by the other pullets we had to separate them by locking them in a small wire dog kennel. And today, there was one gleaming white egg in a nesting box...proof that at least one layer is back to business as usual, even without its comrades to keep it company.
Our elected town representatives, who I alerted to the bullying we received over the cow issue, have responded by going to bat for us, so I am cautiously optimistic that we may prevail in that area as well. I am doing my best to remember that all of our trials, losses and triumphs are part of God's divine plan for our lives, and I am grateful that we have a grocery store nearby where I can buy eggs, chicken and beef in a pinch.