I really shouldn’t have mentioned in my last blog post that we’d yet to lose one of our seven hens to a fox over the past seven years at two different houses.
Commentators curse, they call that, in televised sport.
This morning, about five minutes after I walked up to the back of our large garden to open the girls’ coop door (but not their run), in the dark, at around 7am, a fox struck and pulled off the head of our biggest, softest girl, (Hen) Solo.
I’m still trying to work out what on earth happened to be honest. The girls’ run is large (for four hens – you could probably put eight in there), sturdy, over 6 foot high and roofed. It is covered in chicken wire and for the bottom eighteen inches or so, also covered in a second layer of narrow gauge plastic fencing.
In the four and a half years since we’ve been here, we’ve had no real issue with foxes being that interested in the hens (apart from once... photographed above, but to be honest even then the fox was not interested in the run... it had just got a bit scared after wandering into the garden and then seeing me running up the garden, wailing like a banshee) – Christ knows how though, as they have been denning in next doors overgrown garden for at least two of those four years.
Anna and I (in the house) heard a horrible set of screams coming from the run in the dark at about five-past-seven this morning – and I rushed up there with a head torch on to see what the problem was. Normally it’s a cat. Occasionally, in the light, when they are able to leave the run during the dry-ish 9 months of the year, it’s a woodpecker. Sometimes it’s even a peacock butterfly our girls take offence to.
As I ran up the garden, I heard a large animal (bigger than a cat anyway) take flight, jump onto the 6 foot larch fence surrounding our garden and make off.
But I still thought nothing of it really – I mean the girls were locked into their impregnable run.
When I got close to the run, I realised there had been a horrible incident.
Feathers matted a part of the chicken wire about two feet above the ground and a bundle of hen lay inside the run, next to the feather-matted chicken wire, twitching.
I opened the run door and saw that our biggest, softest girl, (Hen)Solo was the one caught by the fox, somehow, and was freshly-dead. She was in fact missing her head.
I ensured the other two girls (we only had three girls left after the Spring, as I had to dispatch one of the four last April after she suffered a catastrophic prolapse), were safe in the coop – they were… but were obviously incredibly nervous and took Solo’s body out of the run.
The next two hours were spent putting another layer of narrow chicken wire around the coop and also putting down a dig-proof border to the large run – as I’m sure the fox will now be back.
But like I say, I’m still not really sure how on earth the fox GOT Solo. There was no entrance to the run itself by the fox. No tunnel dug underneath the run’s frame. No entrance hole in the chicken wire. Nothing. Just a headless chicken corpse inside the run and a few feathers stuck to the chicken wire run fence.
I can only assume that the fox waited until Solo got right up to the chicken wire, perhaps and it thrust its snout or a paw in, caught her and pulled her head off through the chicken wire.
Just minutes after I walked back to the house! I’m still amazed that seems the most likely explanation as I still don’t see quite how that could happen – I mean its chicken wire… and I would have thought a fox’s muzzle would be too big to be shoved through that… let alone shoved through with enough gap to get a bit of tooth and jaw purchase around a hen’s throat – the hen would only have to take one step back to be completely out of reach by anything but a small snake!
That and the fact that for 9 months of the year we let our girls completely free range all over our large garden, from dawn to dusk – and its just a fortnight after we shut them into their covered, impregnable run for the winter when one of them gets nobbled?!
Anyway…. Happened it has and it’s really quite sad.
Hen(Solo) was a very good girl for us. She was the biggest brown hen (Bovan Goldline, Warren, Ginger-nut Ranger… they’re all pretty-much the same hybrid type really) that I’ve ever seen, let alone kept.
Rather like our biggest cat (who is also HUGE), she was incredibly calm, very placid, seemed to exist outside the hen pecking order – she wasn’t hen-pecked nor did she hen-peck lesser hens and she gave us the most double-yolker eggs of all.
I don’t have many photos of Solo, but the photo at the beginning and end of this blog post is one I do have.
Poor girl… I hope the end was quicker than I fear it was – and at least (I suppose) I won’t have to kill her (that’s never a pleasant thing to do) in the next year or two as her health fails.
I also hope the other two girls are fine without her. I’m never comfortable keeping just two hens – I don’t think it’s enough really – keep three and you tend to get a hen pecking order form after a few days – keep more if possible as they’re VERY social animals.
But two we are left with for now – and as soon as one of them goes (for whatever reason – be that ill health or another fox attack), I’ll have to kill the other too – I won’t keep one hen and to introduce pullets to a 3 year old hen in its own territory is no good either.
Anyway… thanks for over two years of eggs and a lot of fun, Solo.
You kept our wee flock grounded… were ALWAYS a pleasure to be around like your sister (Chook)Berry (the other two we’re left with are much more feisty, broody, aggressive, jealous etc) and Anna and I will certainly miss you very much.
The garden seems a lot emptier without you.
If there are any foxes reading this…
THIS IS WAR.
Be afraid, monsieur renard.
Be VERY afraid.