A sad weekend
There is one thing every free-range chicken and duck-keeper dreads.
And that is a fox attack. Which is exactly what happened to me and my dear flock this weekend.
My birds are (were) free range. That is because I thought they would be happier patrolling the field, making dust baths out of the soil, splashing about in the stream, pecking at the apples in the orchard. Rather than being cooped up all day, not much different to battery chickens. They had a fabulous, adventurous life.
If I was going to be home after dark I would lock the birds up early. The ducks, in particular, would not be happy at having to go into their run, curtailing their fun. And I certainly wouldn’t let them out until the sun was up (or, it was light) in the morning and me and the dogs had done a patrol of the field; scaring off any potential predators.
But all of my ducks (all of them) and five of my chickens were taken/killed in broad daylight by a fox on Saturday. It was brazen. He did not care that there was a human in the next field (who, sadly, couldn’t do much to help). He just took them all but two.
I returned from a short excursion to find the fox standing outside the duck house. He stared at me but not even my dogs made him run off fast. (Mind you they are labradors.)
And then, completely blinded by tears, in absolute hysterics, I scoured the field with my husband: collecting the dead, searching for signs of life.
I found two ducks alive. But sadly the shock killed them a few hours later.
Then, to my hysterical, blubbing, bittersweet delight I found Wincey, my white hen, sitting in the blackberry bush, waiting to be saved.
Dora, my black chicken, came home after hiding in a neighbour’s garden, just before dusk.
I have two chickens left. Wincey and Dora.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of chickens. At one point I had about twenty-five. And they do die. I’ve even had one or two ducks taken by the fox. And I saved Barbara (another white chicken) from the fox’s jaws a few years ago. She went on to live happily for a few more years. I have become a little hardened to their losses. You have to be.
But this. This was something else.
I am popping my weekly writing behind-the-scenes video below. It has lots of duck footage in it. I wasn’t going to upload it, it was too heartbreaking. But I felt I should. I owe it to them and I want to look back in time, when it’s not so raw.