Chicken Dinner

I must admit that it ruffled my feathers just a bit when I discovered, back in early December, that my mother-in-law had accepted another rooster from a lady down the road from us. I have disagreed with my mother-in-law for years regarding her idea that eggs need to be fertilized in order to provide the healthiest eggs for eating.  On top of this, she seems to believe the more roosters one has, the higher the percentage of fertilized eggs one will get. As a result, I have witnessed some brutal scenes in the chicken yard because of an unnecessarily high rooster-to-hen ratio. And it had only been late this fall that we were finally down to just the kind, old rooster, Earl  – after a dog attacked and killed the young, exuberant rooster who kept all the hens bare-backed and had nearly killed Earl on one occasion. So, naturally, I expected things to get ugly again with the addition of yet another young rooster to the flock.

My mother-in-law's attempts to raise her own stock most often ends up with mostly roosters and few to no females.
My mother-in-law’s attempts to raise her own stock most often end up with an abundance of roosters and few or no females.
Earl, the old reliable rooster, can be seen in the background, encouraging the ladies to eat in the sweet potato patch. The young, Buff Orpington rooster in front, was a brute, who had his way with the hens all day long. He was culled from the flock after killing off Earl's brother, Hugo. Hugo and Earl spent many years working together amicably.
Earl, the old reliable rooster, can be seen in the background, encouraging the ladies to eat in the sweet potato patch. The young, Buff Orpington rooster in front, was a brute, who had his way with the hens all day long. He was culled from the flock after killing off Earl’s brother, Hugo. Hugo and Earl spent many years working together amicably to protect the hens.

With the young rooster falling victim to the dog attack, the flock of chickens numbered around twenty-five, counting old Earl. For that size flock, one rooster is sufficient. A good rooster is good to have around for many reasons. They act as a lookout, warning and protecting the girls in case a predator appears. They scout out places for food and call the hens over, encouraging them to eat. A good rooster won’t eat what food he has discovered. He will continue looking for vittles for his ladies, and keep scouting for food until the hens are satisfied. Not all roosters are good ones. Some harass the hens by chasing them and continually raping them. Roosters with these characteristics should be culled from the flock. They are actually bad for egg production, as their constant harassment keeps the hens upset.

One afternoon recently, I saw some kind of medium-sized dog or other mammal moving swiftly through the neighbor’s backyard. It appeared to be carrying something in its mouth, but I could not make out what it was from where I was standing. Quite quickly, it moved down the embankment and disappeared to the west. At the moment, I did not have time to investigate it further, and promptly forgot about it until later when I stepped out on the back porch to check for Punkin or Gambini. There, I noticed the same animal rustling around in the leaves below the slope on the neighbors side of the fence, so I ran back inside for the camera. Through my zoom lens I saw a beautiful red fox, and could tell it was eating something, but I could not make out what its victim was. But as the fox lifted its head, I saw feathers of a very familiar pattern and coloring. It was now apparent the fox’s meal was one of our Barred Rock chickens.

I am always amazed at the actual size of a fox. They're not much bigger than a small dog or a large cat, but their hair is so fluffed out in the winter they appear much larger!
I am always amazed at the actual size of a fox. They’re not much bigger than a small dog or a large cat, but their hair is so fluffed out in the winter they appear much larger!
Excuse my manners. I seem to have a fffffeather schtuck to my lips!
Excuse my manners. I seem to have a fffffeather schtuck to my lips!
Taking a breather! De-feathering a chicken is a lot of work!
Taking a breather. De-feathering a chicken is a lot of work!
Yummy chicken dinner!
Winner, winner! Chicken dinner!
I think I might be spotted and perhaps getting a little too close for the fox's comfort!
I think I might be busted, and perhaps getting a little too close for the fox’s comfort!
If it wasn't for the headless chicken, the fox appears more like a friendly, happy dog!
If it wasn’t for the headless chicken, the fox would appear more like a friendly, happy dog!

With camera in tow, I moved slowly down the porch steps, being careful to stay hidden behind the pool fence so that my subject did not spot me as I inched towards the slope. Snapping photographs along the way, I realized now that this fox had somehow captured one of mom’s chickens. As I attempted to ease further down the slope, the fox caught sight of me and quickly ran away, leaving the remainder of its chicken dinner behind. So, with the fox gone, I walked on down to the neighbor’s fence to get a better look at the fallen chicken. The victim was headless but, by the looks of the legs, body size, and light shade of feathers, appeared to be the younger rooster. If this was the case, I thought, I was not going to be all that upset about the fox having such a fine chicken dinner.

Then last night, FD spotted two red foxes nibbling at some of the fruity-smelling deer feed in the feeders below the slope. We had been seeing one fox recently, either trotting through the woods or drinking from the water tub, but now we knew there were two in the neighborhood. One appeared to be an old fox with lighter colored hair and a mostly white face. The other was a darker reddish-orange tone with really dark, black socks and feet. Since daylight was fading fast and it was very cold outside, I knew any photographs I could manage would likely be blurry, but I still had to rush in for my camera to try to capture a few images of these beauties. I stepped out onto the back porch hoping that Punkin and Mr. Gambini, our orphaned squirrels, were safe in their house in the big squirrel cage, and not out scampering around in the woods near the feeders.

This series of photographs will be blurry due to the 20 degree temperatures and the loss of daylight. One fox was quite submissive to the other. The one on the left appeared to be an old fox, while the one with black legs was quite young.
This series of photographs is blurry due to the 20-degree temperatures and the dwindling light. One fox was quite submissive to the other. The one on the left appeared to be an old fox, while the one with the darker black legs seemed quite young.
One has a nibble of deer chow while the other sniffs a mineral rock.
One has a nibble of deer chow while the other sniffs a mineral rock.
The old fox is really chowing down!
The old fox is really chowing down!
The young fox keeps an eye on me. I was photographing this pair from our back porch, up top of the slope.
The young fox keeps an eye on me. I was photographing this pair from our back porch, up top of the slope.
The old fox has a much lighter coat with a very white face. It appears to be the dominant of the two.
The old fox has a much lighter coat with a very white face. It appears to be the dominant of the two.
I wonder if this is a mating pair, as winter is the mating season for red foxes.
I wonder if this is a mating pair, as winter is the mating season for red foxes.
The young fox takes another sniff at the mineral rock...
The young fox takes another sniff at the mineral rock…
... and promptly decides to mark the small rock by urinating on it. Foxes mark territory by urinating or by leaving a feces pile on a well-traveled path.
… and promptly decides to mark the small rock by urinating on it. Foxes mark territory by urinating or by leaving a feces pile on a well-traveled path.

After preparing lunch today, I took the vegetable discards and scraps out to the chickens. For a few minutes, I stood around and observed the flock as they pecked and scratched at what I had tossed over the fence to them. Much to my dismay, I realized I could count four young roosters roaming around in the chicken pen. I am guessing these new fellas are the juvenile chicks that my mother-in-law hatched last fall. For what ever reason, most of the chicks she raises from her own stock turn out to be roosters.

There is not much for me to do about my mother-in-law’s animal husbandry practices. We have argued it over the years but, ultimately, they are her chickens to raise as she wishes, and her responsibility. But the red fox’s recent chicken dinner did give me an idea! If we can convince FD’s mother to allow us to cull a few of these new, young roosters,  she can have a few nice chicken dinners for herself… and maybe the girls will provide us a bounty of eggs in return for some peace and quiet!

When I saw this photo I was intrigued by the beauty of the image. "Panning" has always escaped me, and I am sure that the cold conditions and poor lighting actually helped create this photograph. I just wish the image of the fox had been more crisp.
When I saw this photo, I was intrigued by the beauty of the image. The technique behind “panning” the camera has always escaped me, and I am sure the cold conditions and poor lighting actually helped create this photograph. I just wish the image of the fox itself, had come out more crisp.

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


47 thoughts on “Chicken Dinner

  1. Some very close friends where we live have over 70s chickens and have run into the problem with the rooster/chicken ratio. If you have never seen it (as you clearly have) it’s amazing, in a sad way, to see it, especially when the roosters overpopulate. That said, those are incredible photos of the fox. I feel for the poor chicken it captured. Living close to nature, wild animals, we see things like this on our end also, more from coyotes. It’s nature but still shocking to witness.

    Wishing you a Happy New Year, my friend.

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    1. Hello Paulette! We have coyotes here too, and I suspect that is the reason for losing all of our fawns this year. I’m still sad about that – it is difficult for me to look through the photographs I took of those sweet fawns – now gone. I have seen coyotes many times on my walks to the river, and I wonder if the population has increased the last years. The coyotes really don’t have a predator to threaten them in these parts – only man. The foxes won’t be here long unless they raise their young here. Daisy deer is pretty ferocious about this area being her “nursery” in the spring and by May she generally has everything run off the place! Even our neighbor’s dog knows to tuck tail and run when Daisy comes. His dog has been clonked on the head a few times and knows she means business!!

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  2. Oh my dear heart is all a flutter! Having only moved to the country for less than a year I have only seen one live red fox! I love your photos, you were so good being sneaky around them! Great story telling too, learned a lot about chooks and roosters! 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much! You are fortunate to see a red fox! I hope you are able to observe it often if it stays in your area for a while. We see both red and grey foxes, but they don’t stick around for long – usually once the rabbit and gopher populations dwindle, the foxes move on to more abundant food sources. I’m a little concerned about how our red fox got a rooster since the chickens are in a pen. I guess that is why they call foxes “clever”!!

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  3. These are some very good photos of the fox. They do indeed love to raid a chicken house or the pen. If MIL had an outside dog it would keep the fox at bay. Too bad she has a mind set about roosters and the nutrition of the eggs.

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    1. Thanks Yvonne! We don’t allow outside dogs on the place because of FD’s and my efforts with wildlife rehabilitation. But MIL doesn’t like dogs or cats anyway. The foxes won’t stick around more than a few months. They can clear out a place pretty quickly of rabbits, moles, gophers and other rodents. They’ll move on to another area… unless they’re raising kits!

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  4. We have coyotes here, no foxes. Someone said at one time they thought they had seen a really big cat also. Nice photo journalism piece by the way.

    Here is a mystery for you.

    1 egg, any style, $1.99
    2 eggs, any style, $2.50
    What’s wrong with that second egg?

    Don

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    1. We have coyotes too, Don. I’m quite sure that is what happened to all of our fawns this year. Ha ha!! I give up… indeed, what IS wrong with the second egg? LOL 😀

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  5. The photos are so beautiful. I love the foxes. I also found out the hard way about rough roosters. I had one that I didn’t particularly like and he was always after the hens too. They looked like they were molting at times. I had also thought that it was a good thing to keep the spurs in tact. Not! I had lost a few hens for no good reason. They were very healthy one day and dead the next. I had inquired about it from someone and they said that I should have either cut the spurs off, or kept them filed down some. They can sometimes puncture the lungs in their aggressive mounting of the hens. I don’t know if she would want to hear that, but it might be worth mentioning.

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    1. Nothing phases my mother-in-law, but I’ll mention it. However, your information about the spurs puncturing lungs might explain some strange deaths of the hens in the chicken yard. That’s what I love about so many interesting comments – we all learn so much from varied experiences. Thanks so much for that little tidbit. Who knows how many hens lives you might be saving? 🙂

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      1. I don’t even keep a rooster around any more. I am down to seven hens and I am not selling so many eggs. The feed is getting too expensive and I have four dogs that pretty much keeps most predators away. If I ever want to start raising chicks again, I will get another rooster. Hopefully I will get a good one that is a good protector, but doesn’t want to ride the hens all day long. I wish you good luck with your mother-in-law. Hopefully she will take note of unexplained deaths. Sounds like the gentler rooster is the only one she needs. 🙂

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  6. Chook, Chook, Chook!!! Love my chickie babies. We have “The Girls” with one good-boy rooster, and another pen with “The boys,” four of them having grown up together and being of less confrontational breeds, get along well. One of my favorite chores is taking scratch and scraps out to the chickens, calling and talking to them. The boys are more engaging and demanding. The girls are comforting and sweet. We recently moved to a new home and although I have not yet seen them, there is one digging creature, an owl and a hawk. So far, the coops are predator proof. Not sure if I’ll allow free-range this summer or not.

    Love your Chicken Dinner blog. The fox is amazing. Do you encourage them to stay?

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    1. Hello Peggi! What interesting information about your “boys”. I think that our Earl and Hugo were siblings growing up together made a lot of difference in them getting along well. Like you enjoying scrap time with your chickens, I do too, and I also have two garden plots near the chicken pen so I spend a lot of time observing them while I work in the gardens. We do free-range when my MIL is not here. I only do this when I am working outside where I can watch the chickens. We’ve had a couple of hawks lately too, and they will pick off hens, so I’d not advise free-range unless you could be nearby. I get it now that back in the pioneer days, the kids were often dispatched to watch livestock (before days of fences and pens). Predators are always looking for an easy meal!

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  7. I have two roosters, which is frankly one too many, and the younger one can be a real butt. He seems to be mellowing out with a bit of age though. We shall see if he continues to make the cut.

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    1. I think you are doing all you can do for now, Cherity. Keep an eye on that young fellow. Sometimes the older rooster can stay dominant and they’ll work it out to get along. 🙂

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  8. I commiserate about the differences of opinion about roosters! My hens have always been much more content by themselves or with one “kind” rooster who spends most of his day alerting them to tasty morsels. Yes, some nasty roosters will just spend all day harassing the hens and the poor things get no peace. It’s distressing to see. Imagine if we were constantly chased around all day by an oversexed male…I shudder to think! 🙂 Foxes are very beautiful but such clever predators. They often foiled my attempts to protect the hens on farms. In my suburban backyard it is the giant carpet python that is the biggest risk! 🙂

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    1. Oh my goodness! A python? I think I’d faint straight away! What on earth do you do with one of those?? You couldn’t keep anything in your back yard, could you? You made me laugh about the vision of being chased by an oversexed male (brilliant way with words). It is the damage to the hens that is most disturbing, and of course when the males go to sparring each other and plucking out eyes, and killing each other it is difficult to see too. I’m afraid I’ve seen it too many times and railed against it so much that for me, it’s caused a hardship of feelings. I am hoping to start up my own little chicken coop this summer if we can afford to build something small.

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    1. Oh, I LOVE your way of thinking – magical is a wonderful word! The fox often gets a bad rap as the “trickster” figure, but I tend to see admirable qualities. Each time I am presented with the appearance of a wild animal or bird, I look up the totem descriptions online – especially if there are numerous sightings in a short period of time. Nature speaks to us continually and the animals/birds are messengers!

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    1. Thanks Buffy!! Foxes tend to sit back and observe. I know both times taking these photographs, I was spotted and as long as I kept distance they were ok to stay put. But when I moved towards them, they swiftly disappeared!

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  9. I do so envy you seeing so much wildlife on your doorstep. Our house is in the centre of the village, so I only see wildlife when I’m out walking. Great photos considering the conditions and so called ‘mistakes’ like the panned one are so often the most artistic. keep warm 🙂

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    1. Hello Henrietta! We have been managing with the cold. How lovely today to find temps in the 50’s and no breeze. I think we will have good weather for about five days before another northerly blasts through!

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  10. Excellent fox photos. They are skittish animals and rarely observed; however, I did have a run-in with one. My partner and I were doing some electrical work in a state park and when leaving one day, we saw a fox in a soybean field maybe 150 ft away. We stopped to watch it when all of a sudden the fox charged us. Knowing that foxes are quite often rabid when they display odd behavior – it didn’t take long to get back in the truck, lol. I’ve only seen them at most a half-dozen times.

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    1. Hi Louis, we happen to see the foxes, both red and grey, quite often, but they come and go. If the rodent population is up, the foxes arrive and they do help keep the numbers down. When they’ve exhausted the prey resources, then they venture on.

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      1. Very interesting! Your comment leads me to the possible conclusion that (a) you have a bigger population of foxes or (b) they have learned to co-exist with humans better. Both, of course, are guesses with no scientific basis in fact . In my adult life I’ve seen only a half-dozen foxes (all red) and I have many years under my belt as an adult, lol!

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        1. I believe they have acclimated to living on the edge of town. In the spring two years ago, each morning I saw a red fox trot along my neighbor’s fence line, disappear under a rickety fence, and scamper into a residential alley. My neighbor has also seen foxes on his back porch eating the cat food. And, in the wee hours of the morning last year I heard thumping on our back porch. Moving the blinds slightly, I discovered two grey foxes playing – jumping on the coffee table and chairs, to the floor and all around! I think both red and grey foxes here are comfortable around humans.

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          1. What can I say but wow? Things sure can vary in different geographic locations. Around our state capital, Richmond, VA, the suburbs are growing so fast that bears are becoming problematic, roaming in yards, getting into trash, etc. Humans are stealing their homes!

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  11. I have found that most of the babies that came from our hens were roosters as well. It’s alright if you are able to dispatch them when they are young (and thus prevent the wholesale guzzling of food for no benefit) or at least kill them when they are young for eating (prior to their first crow they are good eating) but roosters are the pits! We watch our girls closely now to make sure that we know where they are and if they go clucky we find them. NO more babies for us after the “weaselman” came and took our 31 young roosters away!

    Our Big Yin is like your Earl (I have to laugh at that name as our Earl would be worse than any fox to your poor Earl!) Lovely photos Lori and sorry about the loss of the chook. Your M.I.L. needs 4 chook dinners more than she needs 4 more roosters I can tell you! Fertilised eggs aren’t any better for you than regular eggs and in order to keep the hens producing eggs, as you so rightfully say, you only need 1 rooster and a goodn’ Earl sounds like he fits the bill, as does our Big Yin. Time to get peace back to the hen house (watch those foxes though!)

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    1. Thank you, Fran! I named Earl the rooster long before I fell in love with your Earl, and I can well imagine your Earl could do in ANY of the varmints on this place!! He’s a force to be dealt with! Ha ha. You know I can battle Nature and my MIL but it does nothing more than make me a tad crazy. I’ve railed against her practices for eight years or more with no change, and I’m tired of being crazy over the chickens. I did not know about butchering before the first “crow”. These roosters are just now beginning to crow. It’s a cacophony of noise when I get up at 6:00 in the mornings lately!

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      1. They are tender for about 6 months after they crow. After that, you can still eat them, you just have to cook them by steaming or boiling or some other slow cooking, moist method as they are full of tendons.

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        1. Ok that makes sense. We butchered some that were just under a year a while back, and they seemed fine. I’m glad FD doesn’t mind doing that. If I had to hunt or kill my own, I’d quit eating meat! I’m too soft-hearted.

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  12. Love the pictures, Big Sister! You always manage to capture the most interesting animal pics, where they are in their natural habitat; something most of us don’t get to see. I absolutely LOVE Earl!!

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    1. Well you know Earl and I didn’t do well when he was younger. He was a ruffian in the beginning, but after Hugo settled into the barn with the older hens, Earl seemed to settle down having his own harem in the outside pen! Now that Hugo is gone, Earl is the old fella and the young ones try him out – attempting sparring and such. I have to respect him for being the KING for so long, and he has been a good predator watcher and alertist, and he’s good to encourage the girls to eat.

      I love the way our home is situated. From almost every window on all sides of the house, I have a view of all directions, so I can see what’s frequenting the area. This time of year it is easy to spot color and movement. Having a good pair of ears helps too!

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  13. I can’t comment as to what is right or wrong about chicken raising and egg-laying. I don’t have a particular fondness for chickens given a rooster attacked me during my childhood. But I enjoy eating chicken and eggs.

    But those fox photos…wow, how exciting to be able to watch these creatures and photograph them. I’ve only seen a fox once, as he crossed the gravel road in front of me. They are beautiful animals. Although not quite so beautiful when stealing a chicken.

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    1. Oh dear! I’ve heard stories about kids being attacked by roosters! I was fortunate it never happened to me. I remember a mean old rooster at Grandma’s that we had to watch out for. He’d come a flyin at us as we ran to the barn, but he never got us kids! We see foxes often, but they come and go depending on availability of food. I like them because they seek out and eat gophers, which are a big pest here. We have seen foxes dive into root holes under trees in our woods, so I think our property has probably supported a population of them for many years. I’ve never seen kits here, but photographed some once out at FD’s workplace once. They sure were cute, like puppies.

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  14. Lori, the photos of the foxes are great! Especially the one with the feather in mouth 🙂 Your commentary is fun, too.
    That first photo, though? Beautiful!

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  15. Lori, I’m always amazed that you can post about the real things that go on in country life. As I’ve told you before, I worry that I may offend someone with the details.

    Not so! I read some of the comments and find that your friends are OK with it, so next time I will not feel so shy to share. Blurry or not, the photos are exciting to see. I hardly ever see a fox here. 🙂

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    1. Thanks Lynda! I guess I never thought about offending anyone. Nature can be difficult to swallow sometimes… I have my own difficulties with it at times, but it isn’t offensive to me. Life and death happens on a regular basis. And, the rooster issue has been a bee in my bonnet for more than 10 years now. I can’t do anything about it, though I have tried. Sadly, for all of the chickens and roosters involved (we have 5 roosters to about 20 hens now) there will be consequences to the situation my MIL has allowed. Anyway, do not worry about offending anyone. What you live on your farmy can sometimes be tough, but it is a reality. By sharing our experiences we help one another have understanding. Sometimes tough decisions are made and we must live with the consequences. I think it’s fair to cover your story in all truth – as you see it. You can only help people understand by presenting them with everything you know. And you have a knack for explaining and being precise! 🙂

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  16. I guess I have just encountered some really, what words shall I use… frail spirits? They just get really upset with the facts of nature. I have to laugh at myself because I used to be that kind of person.

    You should have been there when I was driving back to work one day in California, and just happened to notice a red tailed hawk flying in the same direction as me. Suddenly, he swooped down and came back up with a little squirrel in his talons! “I squealed like a girl!!!” (I know, I am one, but you get my meaning. 😉 ) I can laugh about my reaction now, but having never experienced it before it was quite a shock.

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    1. I know Lynda… I still don’t always like what I see happen here. A few years back I pulled up in the car to see a hawk nab a mourning dove right in front of me! I could hear the victim shriek as the hawk nabbed it. FD and I watched a bobcat pounce on a squirrel down at the corn feeder one early morning. I’ve seen crows catch lizards and snakes and eat them right in front of me. I suppose when you witness it enough, you become hardened in a sense. The fox killing the rooster was nothing new here. I know it would bother me horribly to see a deer or any other small mammal that frequents the woods, taken down by coyotes or some larger predator. This is what is hard about raising orphans and doing wildlife rehabilitation. I always hope the animals we raise and set free here have a fighting chance in life. I think you know the worry I bring on myself as a result. It is difficult not to get attached to the wild things we have grown to love and care for, even if from a distance.

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      1. We don’t like it, no, but the wild critters gotta eat too, and that is the reality of it. They have to hunt and catch what they eat or starve. Would we have them starve? I think not.

        That knowledge is not hardened, as you say, not to my mind. It is an acceptance of nature. And, I think perhaps for those who are frail spirits, that it puts them in touch with the reality, that even if they didn’t raise their hand to take the life of their meal, it was nevertheless taken for them.

        I am off base here?

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        1. I think you’re quite on the mark, Lynda. You put it so much more eloquently than I did. It is acceptance of nature to be sure. I do not prefer to witness it, though if I was presented with that, I would still photograph it because it teaches us, and there is much to learn of nature in all aspects. And on the flip side, I keep hoping someday that I can witness and photograph birth in the wild. I hope that it can happen from a distance with Daisy or Spirit. Wouldn’t that be lovely to capture? 🙂

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