Tuesday 6 November 2012

Less than fantastic Mr Fox.......

The 10yo's new chickens are growing well and are now roaming the grounds, having been evicted from their temporary prison in the walled garden. These rare breed Salmon Faverolles have joined my other birds in the main coop with access to the gardens and fields all day. I'm sad to say that the other 13 hens and 1 rooster, haven't been particularly welcoming.

I've never had such difficulty merging birds to another flock and I'm starting to believe this is because the new birds, though just 12 weeks old, have a rooster among them, though he's barely a chap yet.

I've tried all the tricks, locking them all up together for days on end, feeding them together and even giving them access to 'the bungalo', the granny annex on the side of the main coop so that they don't have to bed down with the grumpy elders. Sadly, each evening as I return home in the dark with the sproglets, there on the front door step are the newbies, huddled together for warmth. It's driving me potty. I really don't want to make a seperate compound for them but it's looking like I might have to, especially after this morning's event.

There are pros and cons to having free range chickens:

  1. Guilt free rearing
  2. Eggs, of course!
  3. Less food supplied by you, more grub-gardening done by them
  4. Healthier for the chickens who are exercised all day
  5. No one area of the garden is destroyed
  1. Poo everywhere
  2. Loss of eggs as the girls lay secretly in the hedges
  3. No chance of an early night in the summer months while you wait for the last straggler to pop home so you can lock for the night!
  4. Exposure to predators!

Along with the posh chooks' antics, Archie has gone off the rails too.........
(I'm not sure if the well repeated origin for the word posh is true or not but I rather like the explanation: 'Port out, starboard home'. The much-repeated tale is that 'Posh' derives from the 'port out, starboard home' legend supposedly printed on tickets of passengers on P&O Ships (Peninsula and Orient) passenger vessels that travelled between UK and India in the days of the Raj. Another version has it that PO and SH were scrawled on the steamer trunks used on the voyages, by seamen when allocating cabins. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/)  Anyhoo, as I was saying, along with the new birds misbehaving at bedtime, our black hen, Archie, has decided coop sleeping isn't for her either. Although it is chilly-willy out there now, (we dipped to 0° last week,) she's decided to night- roost high in the rhodendendron bush! Normally her elevated nocturnal resting place is reserved for hot summer nights, so this is unprecedented.

Animal bonkers-behaviour is considered normal here at The Larches; so each evening we duly carry the new chooks to the coop and, brandishing a torch, shout into the 20ft rhodendendron,
'Archie, get into bed!' This results in Archie flouncing down from her branch, black as the night, chirping her hen swear words before storming into the coop.

I must admit, when you've had a full day, the dark and the damp penetrating your bones and the children are tired, you do begin to wonder; should we just leave them out, teach them a lesson, hope they get cold enough to seek the warmth of the other hens tomorrow night?

I'm glad we didn't do that last night. This morning I got up at the usual time, 6:30am, and pottered to the sproglet bedrooms to commence defcon 5 of waking them, (a process that can escallate as high as defcon 2!)  After round 1 of encouragement and bright lightbulb treatment I made my way downstairs for caffine reinforcement. On the stairs I stopped, hardly daring to breathe. There, passing below me on the gravel outside the front door, was a fine specimum of Reynard, a striking red fox.

I feared for my friends as he ran about, here and there, bold as brass, hungry. Fortunately the chickens were locked in, the electric fence switched on.

'Look out your windows, NOW!' I called to the household.

My voice must have conveyed a certain something as I heard two thuds as small people rolled out of bed to reach their windows.

There was a silence, a horrified awe as we watched him scurry here and there, exploring. He was both beautiful and terrible to us.

If foxes stole just one chicken to eat I could cope with the loss now and again, but the truth is they don't. They kill all the chickens and take just one. I can't comprehend that.

I let all eighteen chickens out later in the morning and worried as I drove to an appointment in beautiful Hay-on-Wye, the used-book capital of the Universe.

All was well today, there was no loss of life and everyone is tucked up again although my neighbour has since told me that he has lost seven chickens in the past ten days. Fingers crossed for our chums.

Over and out.

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The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon