It was a sad day last Tuesday when a fox finally braved the fence-line during the afternoon and left it’s trademark trail of destruction. There are fox holes dotted all around the wooded area of the garden, and I’ve seen and heard them on numerous occasions, however this is the first time one has come over the fence into the wild garden in broad daylight. The destruction itself could have been worse, but only a little. One chicken survived, another lost it’s tail (feathers mostly) and the third had to be killed. She was so badly torn up during the fox’s attempts to take her back over the fence with it that there was no possibility of recovery. The saddest part, however, is that this was the hen nurturing our one and only 1-week old bantam chick.
It’s a horrid experience for any chicken owner, but it’s so much of a common occurrence for poultry keepers that it was almost expected. I think our super free-range approach was in the end a little too loose, and although we were always sure to put them away before dusk, we may have become complacent with maintaining some form of presence around the coop. In this instance I had been away for the day visiting this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, and the combination of a tall, protective meadow and the abnormal residing quiet, meant that the fox was able to slip in unnoticed until the last moment.
I have since taken down the meadow in the wild garden (as mentioned in the below post regarding the pond) to expose the area a little more, and am keeping a much closer eye on the remaining two hens.
As for Chesney, our tough little bantam chick, it’s a case of some optimum fostering and making the best out of the situation. I’ve taken to having him (or her; too early to sex still, but really hoping it’s a him, just to have a little cockerel keeping everyone in shape) out with me whenever I can be in one place for longer then ten minutes, which like most gardeners, isn’t as often as I’d like. He’s already scratching for bugs and even has little attempts at stretching his wings, but always prefers to be in and under my shadow, much like he would have done around his mother. It’s a difficult situation, as being alone, without company and without a parent is very unnatural for any newly born creature and I can’t help feeling a little responsible. At least with incubated chicks the numbers are usually larger, despite not being raised under a hen. Chesney still has to spend the majority of his time alone in a box with water, chick crumbs and a nest, but I’m doing my best to entertain him until he’s big enough to join the others.