Archive for April, 2013

The two certainties of chicken-keeping – Death and foxes.

Fox with a gun

Damn my clumsy paws

There has been some soul searching after we lost all three chickens to a fox. I don’t in anyway blame the family who were looking after them, as I clearly didn’t fully explain the ramifications of not putting them in before dark, and I sympathise with how terrible they feel and the efforts they made to find the chickens. However initially, I did feel that this wouldn’t have happened if we were at home. Once a fox had been able to get to the chickens he was bound to come back, and he was able to get to the chickens in the first place because they weren’t locked up before dark.

However, if I’m honest, there have been times we have been late putting them in at night and we have been lucky. It is also naïve to think that foxes only attack during the evening. Given that the other two chickens were killed in broad daylight.  The farmer who supplies us our chickens wasn’t at all surprised that the fox attacked them during the day. He clearly thought we were thickies for thinking otherwise.

Anyway, what has worked for the past year will not work anymore. Lala and Cassie are in the uncomfortable position of having a fox know where they are and we will have to be more careful if we are going to keep them safe.

They have a large run and coop, so they should be happy kept in there when we are not around. Our other chickens had free range of the whole ‘farm’ area, but this will not be the case for the newbies. From now on chickens will be in the run unless we are around. Although this is no hardship now, I’ll be extending the run over the weekend to give them more space while in captivity.

I’m aware that foxes are wily and cunning. I’ve read my Roald Dahl and I’ll be disappointed in any fox who doesn’t mock up a scale model of the garden including all defenses before he attacks. I know they can bite through wire, chew through wood and dig like crazy… erm, foxes, but I refuse to become paranoid.

I will do my best for the chickens, without surrendering and unreasonable amount of time/money to the project. Lala and Cassie aren’t on their own, but they remain, just chickens, and let’s not get weird about this.

I feel this is an apt time to put in a quick note about my feelings towards foxes. They haven’t changed. I knew foxes were rather nasty creatures before this and I still know it now. I have always been opposed to fox hunting, not because I think foxes are cuddly, beautiful creatures who need protecting, they’re not. They are, in many cases ruthless pests who need culling, but I don’t think the way to do it is to invite your friends round, get dressed up, get on horses and watch your dogs tear them apart. To me it’s about the motive and turning killing into a game is a bit too cruel and ruthless for me to be comfortable. I don’t like killing for fun it in humans any more than in foxes. Let’s be clear about this, foxes absolutely do kill for fun. They did not eat my chickens, they ripped their heads off and left their bodies and they sought them out to do this. They killed them because they can. I don’t approve of this sort of behaviour in anyone in a red coat, be it fox or posh bloke.

Although Foxes are the usual enemy, our farmer told my husband that the worst poultry massacre he’d ever seen was in a coop where a badger had got in. From a barn of 100 hens, only half a dozen were still alive the next morning. Many killed, but many more dying of fear and shock. Chickens do that, never throw a chicken  a suprise party, they are massive drama queens who will keel over and die when faced with a bit of a shock just one of the reasons my birds will never be allowed to see the state of my knickers drawer.

Gone chicks gone.

chickens

Me and my girls

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, but I’m afraid tragedy has forced my hand.

Our three chickens, Goldie, Isabelle and Julia have recently celebrated their one year anniversary with us (we chucked some corn their way and said ‘nice one’). They have been happy pecking about/mercilessly destroying the top end of our garden. We have chased them around neighbouring gardens, harvested slugs for them and braved all kinds of weather to collect the eggs they have kindly provided. We have all been happy, fulfilled and content with one another, who can ask for more?

Last weekend we went away and our usual chicken babysitters couldn’t make it, so we asked a family down the road to take care of the girls for a few nights. They did so, but on the last night we got a text to tell us that they’d been a bit late putting the girls in and despite a 2 hour search one of them was still missing. Then came the fatefull line, ‘there were some feathers and blood around…’. A fox. Dammit.

When we got back Julia was gone and Goldie and Isabelle were clearly shaken. We were kind to them, gave them lots of TLC, ACV and gentle coaxing and they seemed to be cheering up.

Today we decided to get them a new roomie, so my husband took the kids to the farm to buy a new POL pullet. When they got back we all trooped up the garden to introduce her to her new partners, but all was eerily quiet. My son innocently asked ‘Where are the others?’ to which his brother answered, ‘Don’t worry, they’re probably in the coop’.

They weren’t. I had a quick check round the back and found our favourite chicken, Gold Star ‘Goldie’ lying in the compost, decapitated. We couldn’t see Isabelle anywhere. It was obvious the fox had come returned to finish the job.

Not long afterwards came the strangest scene I have ever been witness to. I was talking to my husband about whether to get a new chicken straight away to give our new bird some company, when behind him  I saw the decapitated corpse of our other chicken Isabelle ‘fly’ over the hedge. By which I mean our neighbours, on finding a dead chicken on their driveway, had decided the best course of action was to sling it over the eight foot lleylandii hedge.

We weren’t in the immediate vicinity so one can only presume that we missed the “Hullo there neighbour, we seem to have found something of yours, would you care to have it returned?” which presumably proceeded the flinging of the dead bird, but I remain confused. If you found a dead cat, or dog on your driveway and you knew it belonged to a neighbour would you, a) pop round and let them know that their dead pet was just behind the Audi, or would you b) sling it over the hedge?

Even for those of you who think. Ah, a chicken is not a pet. I would agree, but then ask the same question if the animal was a lamb, or a sheep, or a goat etc. I’m still thinking you’d pop round. Maybe that’s just me.*

Anyway this basically cemented our decision. As I recall, the last thing I called to my husband as he drove off back to the farm was ‘get the loudest one you can’.

So now, one year on our old friends are gone and we have two new chickens, LaLa and Cassie. And a new enemy. Foxes beware.

*I know some people may not approve of me keeping chickens and may feel it impinges on their lives and I have some sympathy, although I’m not sure how it’s a problem, (unless chicken noises are more intolerable than the house music my other neighbour pumps out of his shed 4 hours a day). I would suggest that my neighbour’s poor attitude to recycling and their teenager’s delight in having a loud party every time they go away, also impinges on my life but I don’t make a fuss. We all live together and small inconveniences are to be endured for the sake of a harmonious community. Basically what I’m saying if your husband is going to stare out the window when I’m sunbathing, then don’t frigging
sling a dead chicken over my fence when we are in mourning. Be nice bitch.