Friday, 17 June 2011

Foxes Aren't Clever, People Are Stupid

I have been keeping hens for three years. I keep my girls in the fort Knox of chicken coops. The run is sited on paving slabs, so no predators can dig their way in. I check the weld mesh regularly to make sure nothing has been worrying at it. My chooks never free range if I'm not here. I have prikka strips around the garden in an attempt to keep unwanted visitors out. All of these precautions are meaningless, however, if in an act of absentmindedness you leave the run door open. Oh, and prop it open with a spade.

Yep. I got up this morning to panicking children. Thankfully, I had closed the pop hole, so all of the pekins were present and correct. It was suggested that we'd been visited by the four legged scourge of the chicken keeper, Mr.Fox. At this point I had to accept responsibility, because as wily and clever as the fox is reputed to be, I suspect his talents fall short of using a garden implement to keep the run door open. If he could commit such a feat, I imagine he would have a utility belt equipped with several sized screw drivers and his own camping stove. And as well as eating the chickens, he'd have stolen the telly and raided the fridge.

So it just goes to show that even an experienced keeper, who knows the risks, can slip up. And where a human slips up, a fox gets a free meal. I am now considering rigging up some kind of alarm. I'm half kidding.

In other news, I have taken the bull by the metaphorical horns. With three broody pekins, I need that parakeet cage. So after taking a deep breath, I shoved Smudge in to the serama hutch with the others. Vera stays for the most part on the top floor with the chicks, so it was left to Betsy to chase the newcomer around the bottom of the hutch, occasionally hanging on to her neck feathers in greeting. Like the coward I am, I hid indoors for half an hour and hoped that no blood would be shed. On inspection, I found Betsy and Smudge settled down in to opposite corners and preening. So I am cautiously hopeful that no one will lose an eye.

Hilda is bad temperedly stalking about the confines of the parakeet cage, alternately hissing at the serama and keening for her nest. It's never a pleasant thing to cage a broody, but as I now have a queue for the cage I am determined to wait her out. At the moment, she should get parole on Sunday. And Celia will take her place. I might install a turnstile.

Today for the first time I let all of the birds out together under my supervision. The garden time share situation was proving a real headache, so now that the chicks are 7 weeks old, I thought it was worth a try. Interestingly, they all pretty much ignored each other. Apart from Celia, who wandered a little too close to Hoppy. Vera leapt out of the rosemary bush like a tiny ninja, and the two embarrassingly mis-matched hens had a bit of a battle. Vera kicked the bigger hens arse, and Celia skulked off looking sheepish.

Apparently, size isn't everything.

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