One evening, I heard guns firing in the near distance. Hunting season had just begun in the Belgian countryside. While on one of my regular outings, I saw a gathering of hunting men wearing gears dyed in the colors of falling leaves. I saw human predators long riffles in hands – hunting dogs waiting at their knees – encircling a large piece of farming land dressed in a wintry brown coat. Listening to the sound of guns, I remembered the story my neighbor Gilberte told me.
The country lady lives with her husband a few doors down the street or more exactly down a countryside road. Farming lands surround the Belgian landscape, including fenced fields with grazing cows, horses but also sheep and geese.
One morning, while visiting my neighbor with the intention of buying fresh organic eggs conceived in her garden, a conversation begun.
“Hunting season has just begun,” the Belgian lady said in French.
“What do they hunt?” I asked.
“Pheasants and hares,” the elderly woman explained.
“Can I have some eggs today,” I inquired. “I’ll take whatever you have.”
“I have plenty of eggs right now. You can have as many as you want.”
“Your chickens must be happy.”
“Yes, my chickens are feeling better. They don’t seem traumatized at the moment.”
“My poor chickens stopped producing eggs for a while,” Gilberte explained. “A fox came to visit. I lost three of my young chicks. The fox took them.”
“There are still wild foxes in Belgium?”
“Too many foxes around here,” the elderly lady proclaimed. “My chickens can’t come and go as they wish anymore. Now I have to call them at night and lock them into their den where they are safe from that fox.”
“The fox entered their enclosed den?”
“Yes, through the cat-door my husband had built,” Gilberte further explained. “I wish the hunters would kill a few.”
“Foxes need to eat too,” I retaliated.
“There are plenty of pheasants to hunt in the neighborhood. Foxes should leave my chickens alone,” the lady proclaimed a little aggravated.
“I guess coming in your yard and stealing your chicks is easier than chasing pheasants for kilometers on open lands.”
“My poor chicks,” she exclaimed sniffling. “And the few survivors left had to witness their kin killed in front of their beaks. My poor babies, just born and already dead.”
“Your chickens have been traumatized by the big bad fox,” I jokingly replied while smiling. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. You can have six eggs,” Gilberte said smiling back, “fresh from today and still warm.”
“I can’t wait to have a soft egg for lunch,” I finished saying.
While walking with a limp, the red-hair lady escorted me to the entrance door, her bulky furry dog following close by. I left my neighbor in good spirits and headed back to my sister’s home. Outside the air was cold and I walked fast, ready to be indoors again.
That evening while reflecting on Gilberte’s words, I saw the world with a different eye. Of course, I meant to speak for the sake of the big bad fox that proudly tries to survive amidst humans and limited territories. Yet at the same time, I also felt sorry for the death of Gilberte’s chicks and the post hunting trauma the surviving chickens had endured. I do enjoy eating eggs.