Half-way through Friday afternoon, I saw a flutter of feathers out of the corner of my eye, and glanced up to see a fox in my hen run. I am all about Economising on things these days, so I’ll re-use my phraseology from last May’s post.
I nearly dropped my cup of coffee as I swelled with fury. A small shriek of indignation may well have escaped me. I galloped to the front door and erupted out of it like an enraged jack-in-the-box. I’d have booted him heavily up the arse if I could’ve got enough speed up, but I present a fair amount of surface-area wind-resistance these days, and I was therefore confined to roaring BANG! at the top of my voice. He took off like a rangy red ballistic missile heading for next door, and I suspect he will not be back to dine today.
There must be a local litter of cubs catalysing these daylight parental raids. I have no rancour towards the foxes themselves, as feeding your young is a fairly blameless occupation; I’d tackle a woolly mammoth sporting an extra helping of pointy tusk if it stood between me and my child’s starvation. But there’s any amount of other prey about at this time of year, so they can keep their damned dirty paws off my hens.
I cursed, but all my hens were ok – albeit shaken and suffering ripped-out feathers – and I reckoned I had scared him sufficiently in order to buy myself a couple of days in which to improve the electric fencing (trans: change the power unit and switch it on); I noted he had jumped over a section where a branch had fallen over the white tape. Clever bugger.
Saturday morning, shortly after breakfast, John trailed upstairs with bad news.
All massacred apart from my original Brahma hen (a clever old girl whom I noted had gone to ground to hide somewhere during Friday’s attack: she is now a wizened veteran of at least 4 fox incursions) and one of her sons, who came wandering back some hours later looking dazed.
I shall borrow again, because I’m tired and lazy, from last spring’s near-identical poultry perils:
Fox #1: ‘Did you ever manage to get out to that lovely little place I told you about? Divine menu, darling, simply divine. Can’t believe we’ve not discovered it before.’
Fox #2: ‘Well I did, Reynard, and thank you so much for the recommendation. The electric fencing isn’t effective, you’re quite right. I popped in for a late lunch yesterday, and had a simply marvellous cockerel.’
Fox #1: ‘Yummy, yah?’
Fox #2: ‘ Totally, darling, although I was a leeetle disappointed that hens were off the menu. I think someone was a bit greedy before, yah? I could only see one and that was a Brahma, and I always think they’re tough.’
Fox #1: ‘You’re just too picky, darling, it’ll be lovely with a spot of slow munching. Meet you there for lunch?’
I am out for most of the day. Very tempted to tuck Mrs Brahma under my arm and take her with me. Leaving her in the run is tantamount to making a present of her to Foxy. Hairy hubby reacted badly when I requested a proper hen run, with a wire ceiling. Poor henny-penny, what shall we do?
I have lost Mrs Brahma’s sole remaining daughter, from whom I hoped to breed. Mrs B is a tenacious survivor and responds well to male companionshipCOUGHCOUGH, but I have no unrelated cockerels left, and I doubt she will still be laying by the time I’ve bought some unrelated brahma eggs to hatch. She is now being assiduously courted by her own son, whom I have unimaginatively named Oedipus. I could theoretically hatch their eggs provided that the next generation had fresh genetics to breed with – I know enough people that do - but it seems… icky.
And it’s all a waste of bloody time anyway, if next spring is going to wipe the lot out again. Sigh. Why can’t I get myself a hobby that involves fewer mass killings? I can’t even leave my spaniel on guard in the garden, because he’s a little devil and worse than the bloody fox for killing my hens, and, embarrassingly, next door’s hens. Sigh. And an even bigger Sigh because – and some of you won’t like this – I have rung John’s cousin, who owns the field in question, to tell him that the gamekeeper thinks the vixen and her cubs are living under a large bale stack. If they are, they will now be shot.
I’ve never been mad on shooting things, but I am, after all, married to a farmer, and pest control is all part of the farming gig. I have shot rats and fluffy bunnies with both air rifles and shotguns, but I have never to my knowledge killed a mother with young, and I’m fretful about it.
But I’m also mithered about my poor hens, who were still distressed from the previous day’s attempted assassination when they were slaughtered, and it’s a straight it-or-us scenario. I don’t have the wherewithal to construct a 12ft fox-proof fence around the hen run. I have 11 fertile eggs incubating in the kitchen, and as the current situation stands, I’m just rearing fox-food.
Harry shrieked like a bugger last night, after 3 nights of sleeping straight through til 6 – 7am, and he’s complaining again now, a mere hour after bedtime. I thought we’d cracked him, but no. I’m having an early night (good book, warm drink, small snack, electric blanket set to High Roast. Wifey heaven) to prepare myself for the rigours of house-cleaning and dinner-party preparation, and if he wakes me up tonight I shall go spare, because I’m propping my eyelids up on matches here.
Rancid coloured chicken Coq au vin has now been replaced with a bland chickeny-whitewiney-mushroomy-tarragony thing, and a beef bourguignon. I hope this is ok with the shed.
I am tired. Harry’s tantrums have moved up a gear, and I now sport bruises. The house is a pigsty. The laundry is still on the line, in the dark. You can’t put a plate down anywhere in my (5+ metres x 5+ metres. Don’t hate me, my MIL owns it all) kitchen. My dining room is still a playroom. I am really tired.