Something came after my chickens Saturday night. I hadn't been asleep for long when I heard the girls fussing. The fussing almost immediately gave way to frantic squawks. I raced outside in my pajamas with only slippers on my feet in several inches of snow.At first I didn't see anything but then a small dog-like shape appeared from beside the chicken pen. I thought it was a small dog with a long skinny tail but I couldn't tell anything more than that. I quickly chased it off and settled the girls. An hour or so later the girls started in again, and this time I was better prepared, as I grabbed my headlamp in addition to my slippers.
When I got outside, the marauder was further away, and I could see its eyes in my headlamp but nothing else.
The next morning the girls were okay, if still jumpy. When a hawk flew past to the north, they acted as though it was right overhead. Later, I kept thinking about what I thought was a small dog, and I've come to the conclusion that it wasn't a dog at all. I've never seen a stray dog around here, and I pretty much know all the dogs within a mile or so of the cabin. There aren't many and most of those are farm dogs.
I now think my midnight marauder was a fox with mange. In the fall, I saw two foxes with an early or mid-stage of mange. They still had some fur on their bodies but the fur on their tails was pretty much gone. This nighttime predator struck me as being very short-haired at best. I didn't see any hair, just its silhouette, which reminded me of a small, short-haired terrier with a long, skinny tail.
If I'm right that it was a fox with mange, I'm astonished that a fox could survive the winter without its fur coat. Perhaps that's what made it try for the chickens in the pen right under the cabin. It must be desperately cold and willing to take risks, such as approaching the cabin, that it wouldn't ordinarily attempt.
The next morning, I reworked my chicken pen a bit, tightening up the edges, covering it up on the far side with a tarp. So far, I haven't had a repeat of Saturday night's attempt. I hope this predator, whatever it was, has learned its lesson.