Death in the morning, an elegy

This morning I woke to squawking from the chickens. I didn’t think much of it; they’re often noisy in the morning. But it went on, and I went out in time to see a large grey fox with feathers in his mouth standing in the corner of the run. He stared as I approached, and then easily climbed the fence and ran off. The ground was littered with feathers, and one hen was trembling with several bald patches, but the real heartbreaking find was Malawi, the rooster, who lay alive but with his neck broken.

Here’s to beautiful, proud Malawi, who always led his flock to food and always waited and ate last. He successfully defended all seven hens from the fox, who went away with nothing for his trouble but a mouthful of feathers.

It was sad to have to kill Malawi, but he couldn’t survive with a broken neck. I did it as quickly and gently as I knew how, with many words of praise.

Malawi was affectionate to humans, and fierce in defense of his hens. Luckily, I have a broody hen sitting on seven eggs. At least one should be a rooster, and his descendant can replace him.

I went to get the shovel, and then couldn’t bear to bury him–it didn’t seem fitting to his heroic act. Instead, I plucked him. In a few days, we’ll have a rooster dinner–honored in death as in life.

As with the chicken hawk last year, I blame myself, not the fox. He was a beautiful fox, who must somehow be able to live in the canyon behind our house–which is about a mile long, a quarter of a mile wide, and has a stream running though it. He was only doing what foxes do: “We call this instinct / by which we dream know know what instinct is,” Larry quoted from “Cantatrice,” and of course, he’s right.

As for what I will do in the future, I ordered a timer for the automatic gate that lets the chickens out into the run. Now it just opens at sunrise and closes at dark; clearly sunrise is too early. I’ll set it for 8, and get them in at least an hour before dark. In the meantime, I’ll close up the automatic gate and let them in and out manually. They’re pretty subdued right now, and don’t want to go out much anyway.

6 thoughts on “Death in the morning, an elegy

  1. He was a very forlorn hero by the time I got there, but he must have been fierce to keep the fox from a single bird!

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