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Foe And Feathers

1st of July 2014

I have always had a love/hate relationship with the fox. I love their perky faces, pointy ears picking up every sound, eyes alert to the slightest movement. I love the way they lean against an ash tree on the edge of my wood and sunbathe. My dad pointed the spot out to me when I was a little girl. It must be something passed through the generations, on both sides, as I showed my son the place and only last week I saw a fox there in the same pose as ever taking in the afternoon sun. A healthy fox with a good coat and a long brush is a sight that somehow gladdens my heart.

BUT… I have always kept chickens and there has always been conflict. My dad used to say that one had to be tiger proof to keep the wiley fox at bay! Over the winter I started to let the hens out in the garden with me as their run in the old vegetable garden got wet and muddy. They had a great time pecking about where I was working, hopefully eating the pests. They would all run back to the veg garden when called and offered a bit of grain, it seemed the perfect system. Surely the fox would not take one whilst Ted, my dog, and I were there. My dad also said that May and early June was the worst time for fox attacks. The vixens have big cubs to feed. Later in June the cubs start finding worms and bugs for themselves and the pressure on their mother begins to ease. So knowing all this, why did I let the hens out of their fortress in May?

I was in the garden with Ted, showing a friend my new trees, when we came across a pile of chicken feathers. The hens had only been out for ten minutes and we had not heard a thing! As we examined the feathers I saw something moving in a clump of nettles. It was Deirdre, the only hen with a leg ring and a name; the one that kept going broody last summer. I scooped her up, she was now half naked, and we called up the others. One was missing, presumed eaten, the rest are now confined to barracks until August, just to be on the safe side.

The moral of this story, never let your hens free range in May or June!
Wendy Bathust

This page is edited by Tony

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