What’s your opinion of foxes? Urban scavengers? Varmints? Cute and cuddley? I would ask my chickens – but alas they are no longer here to give a view, Charlie Fox having paid us a visit on Saturday night.
It was my own fault, distracted by grandchildren I went to shut the chickens IN for the night, failed to check properly and managed instead to shut them OUT. And in the morning: a lot of feathers and one-and-a-half cadavers, one of which was delivered to us by a joyful spaniel showing how jolly good she is at picking up fallen game. Thank you Sally.
Midsummer is one of the peak times of year for losing chickens: the nights are short, the grass is long, and the vixens have growing families to feed. They come out in the daytime, when you think your free-rangers are safe, lie up in the grass and, from their cover, they swipe the hens one at a time. And do the others have the sense to move away to a safer area? Why, of course not! They are quite happy to go on pecking away, waiting for their turn, or so it seems to me.
I have found that the full-on henhouse hit is more of a hazard in winter: the chickens are more willing to put themselves to bed at dusk – and woe betide the owner who doesn’t get out there and shut the door in good time. The night belongs to the fox.
That said, it can happen at any time – and especially if you leave your teenage children to be responsible for locking up: looking at you, JM! Ten new pullets that were, none of which had yet laid an egg, all of which were taken away overnight to feed some very lucky cubs! Sorry JM, but if you were indeed “just a little late shutting up”, how come it you until morning to notice they were gone? Ha! Gotcha!
So, foxes: cute and cuddly? Hardly. Yes, the playful cubs can be a delight to watch – but the nature of the beast is a hungry, sharp-toothed predator, not something that’s always comfortable to live with.
In urban areas they may be happy to live on KFC – a whole other story – but in the countryside a “chicken takeaway” has a whole different meaning. Foxes are part of the British countryside and beautiful to see, but they’ve learnt what rich-pickings we carelessly provide – and they’re smart enough to take every chance they get.
Keep that hen-house door tight shut – and your food waste bin!
Marian Whittaker has no illusions about country life