We’ve had our four chickens for less than two months. Past tense entirely appropriate here, after a fox killed two, took one and left the other for dead. The casual brutality is shocking – especially looking to shove them into the safety of the chicken house for the night, and finding three pathetically still chickens, broken, flat on their backs.
The fourth was nowhere to be seen but the trail of feathers suggest a violent end that wasn’t in the story I fabricated for my youngest. This was “her” chicken, and while you could argue that shielding kids from the grizzlier side of the food chain is cowardly, it wasn’t you faced with a tearful eight year old needing reassurance.
And while unhappily bagging up the dead birds, we noticed the fat one that lays ostrich size eggs was still breathing. Upside down, clearly traumatised but just as clearly not dead. It must have been knocked over and gone into shock so fooling the fox it didn’t need finishing off. We gratefully moved inside clutching the catatonic chicken, and watched it stagger about a bit, before it went to hide in a corner.
It’s still there or thereabouts two days later method acting a cross between Howard Hughes and Greta Garbo. Apparently chickens tend to just give up, stop eating and fall off the mortal perch. But we’ve high hopes for this feisty little bugger, it’s now eating a few hand fed grapes and has even managed a bit of outside pecking without mentally crumbling. Cast a shadow anywhere close though, and it freezes assuming it is about to be eaten.
This – fortuitously – is Verbal’s chicken, and she’s very keen to see it pull through. Personally I think it’s milking it now, but obviously I’m keeping that to myself. And while I know that chickens are nothing more than noisy, mobile egg laying units, and foxes kill everything and take hardly anything, and you shouldn’t get attached to domestic poultry, and the fox has cubs to feed so who are we to choose, and, and… it was still bloody upsetting.
Some things have changed. We’ll not be putting them into their new enclosure until I’ve erected Colditz type electric fences, surrounded it with ninja voles and armed the new chickens with automatic weapons. Yes, we’re going for four more, and this time we’ll try and discharge our duty of care with a little less naivity about how high foxes can jump.
And that’s not all that’s changed. My attitude to fox hunting has always been on the liberal side of hand wringing served up with a shoulder chip of class warrior. But having found that not everyone who participated was total dick, and having seen first hand the waste of fox kills, I’m not so sure anymore.
I am sure of one thing, if I saw that fox, I’d shoot the bugger.