I remember some of you had warned me that we might lose chickens to wandering predators; and well, it happened sooner than we thought.
Yesterday morning, as I went out to feed the chickens, I saw a fox circling the chicken coop, and our rooster was missing. The other birds were twittering in panic inside the coop, and I rushed to their aid. I had seen foxes around here many times, but only at night and on the outskirts of the habitated areas, and was astonished to find one so close, in broad daylight, right in our back yard. Moreover, even though I made loud noises and threw stones in its direction, it looked almost fearless and it took quite an effort to drive it away, which made me suspect it was rabid.
When we later found the killed rooster, we saw that the fox didn't actually eat him - it put its prey aside and proceeded to look how it could get to the rest of the birds. Imagine its frustration when we prevented it from enjoying the results of its hunt.
Anyhow, we called the local veterinary services and voiced our suspicion as to the fox being rabid, and were told that because of the summer draught, many foxes can't find food and are therefore far more likely to visit garbage heaps and back yards to look for something to eat, in particular when there are such attractions as our chickens and the neighbours' rabbits.
All day we were on the alert, but didn't really think the fox would come again before nightfall. However, just as the sun began to set and it was twilight, our old pal was right on the spot again. The panicky behavior of our chickens made us guess how it got to the rooster in the first place: it couldn't get into the coop, but it scared the birds so much that they began to look for any possible venue of escape, and the rooster squeezed out of a small hole near the top. Of course, that was his fatal mistake. Had they all hidden in their nest in the middle of the coop, there would be no way for the fox to get at them, but of course there can be no expecting them to figure this out.
Anyhow, we gathered the chickens in a cardboard box to spend the night at home while we're working out ways to make the coop safer, and later at night, a guy from the veterinary services stopped by and brought a fox trap, which we placed next to the coop. Last night we had no result.
I will keep you updated if we catch the fox, but even if we do, there are others in the area and if they actually dare to attack in broad daylight, I guess this means we'll be unable to follow up with our plan to let the chickens roam in the garden during the day. I admit I had not foreseen something like this; I thought we should only be worried about predators at night.
Any advice from those with more experience will be welcome.