Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chicken update, an inspirational tale of remorse, retrenchment and rebirth

Sadly our resident vixen chose to celebrate the Jubilee with a daring daytime raid on the chicken run. Within an hour she'd dug into the run, captured and executed our four surviving fowl and carted the corpses off to feed her den of mewling cubs. I was, it's fair to say, pretty grumpy, particularly as I'd spent a week of post prandial evenings lurking around in the rain, full of wine and shotgun primed, ready to dissuade with extreme prejudice the malicious vulpine.
It wasn't to be, the moment the sun came out and we headed off to the pub to toast Good Queen Liz, she (the fox, not the royal) swooped like a swoopy thing and carried off the girls.

So, what to do, well, with an empty run for the first time I took the opportunity to execute a through disinfection and mouse frightening regime, chuck a load of grass seed down, give the land a month of recovery and set about a fox-proofing programme. Step one was trenching, digging a foot-and-a-half-deep,foot-wide trench around the perimeter of the pen, that's about 50 metres of ditch, and the wooded location makes it impractical to get a digger in so that was a very painful afternoon with shovel and spade for myself and our chum Nigel. To be honest Nigel's obsessive attention to detail delivered a very precise trench with vertical sides and neatly finished edges, my half looked considerably less polished but was dug and filled with scalpings before Nigel had finished stage 1 of his earthworm re-settlement programme. In the spirit of teamwork I sat and drank beer until he'd caught up. 

Scalpings are golf-ball-sized lumps of flint and granite, delivered to me as 1 cubic meter bags (4 of them) and then distributed to the trench, with shovel and wheelbarrow, then thumped with a cast-iron weight to compact and compress them. Sadly Nigel never recovered from the emotional trauma of my cavalier approach to ditch digging so this was a solo exercise. Which took about a week.... Well I do have real work to do as well.

Final stage was to lay chicken wire stapled to the base of the fence stretching over the trench and about 1/2 a metre into the surrounding countryside. Back breaking work stapling the stuff and then pegging the edges with 100 aluminium tent pegs around the edges. There's an Ebay camping shop that must think I'm really careless pegging out my tent.

So after a month of trauma, travail, trial and trench I set off to my chicken dealer in leafy Leatherhead. Chicken dealers work like crack cocaine vendors, luring you in but knowing once you're hooked you'll keep coming back, each time, a little poorer, a little more realistic, a bit more resigned to the inevitable, a little better prepared, better informed and sharing new anecdotes about bloody foxes.

Here they are then, three new girls at the Barn, I try maintain my pragmatic objectivity and insist on calling them the grey one, the red one and the white one but even so they're already showing their own characters and attitudes. We've had eggs from the white for a week and the first from the grey yesterday, still half-size eggs but it's a good sign, despite a new life which thus far, (it's been a great summer hasn't it?) has been pretty much completely underwater they do seem to be settling in. 

And fingers crossed, no cunning incursions from Fox force five (pulp fiction reference for the tarantino fans amongst you).

I'll keep you posted...

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At 10:15 am, Blogger MarkMcLellan said...

Would you like to come and shoot our foxes when you've done with yours. I assume cats are in as much danger as chickens. Three of them frolicing in the garden on Sunday. We are sure one has been in the house, later evidenced by one poking its head through the cat flap as I was preparing the breakfast.

At 10:40 am, Blogger Stuffy said...

Urban foxes are much bolder than our semi-rural ones, I think even a marksman as poor as I could manage to hit a head in a cat-flap. Thus far the prevention measures, have been successful, we're back up to six strong in the flockette and four of them laying. Unfortunately one has decided she's a tree-rooster which makes their bedtime more athletic than it needs to be. Best of luck with your foxes Mark, if your neighbours are broad-minded may I suggest a little nocturnal micturation around your fences, boy-urine is an off-putter allegedly...


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