The chickens are still shut in securely under avian flu restrictions, but it gets dark at about 4pm and I sometimes don’t get round to closing the popholes to the coops but it does mean the hens can let themselves down in to the run when they wake up. Yesterday morning, as I was drinking my tea and waiting for it to get properly light, I heard a barrage of alarm calls from the coop outside my kitchen, and as I opened the back door, a large fox stood looking at me about 8′ away. I told it to er, “go away” and it sauntered off down the path and out of the back gate.
Although my house backs on to fields and farmland and often see and hear foxes around and about, I don’t have a problem with them taking hens as the coops and runs are secure, and my frequent travels up and down the garden with or without the dog means the chickens are never really left unattended. Foxes are opportunistic hunters, but will also observe the goings on and wait for a time they know is likely to be safe for them to breach any defences. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve only ever had once incident where the fox got in to a run and killed the hens, and that was my fault for omitting to secure the birds correctly.
The chooks in the carport are a bit more “exposed” as they are not within the boundary of the garden, but I’ve had to accept this as bird flu is a more pressing problem. Foxes tend to be more interested if there is a cold snap, and we are currently in the midst of high pressure and if there’s snow, I will have to be even more vigilant as the white stuff prompts foxes to gorge themselves, whether or not they are hungry; a good evolutionary strategy.
When I originally rearranged the birds a few weeks ago, I had Jason my elderly bantam in with Tweedle the Barnevelder bantam as they have been ranging together happily for the last year or so, and keep themselves to themselves. I noticed just before Christmas that they had obviously been fighting as both were bloodied, and poor Jason (who is 9 years old) looked extremely sorry for himself. His eye was puffy and swollen, and he was breathing heavily…I didn’t expect him to make it through the night, but roosters are pretty resilient when it comes to recovering from fights.
As I was sorting out the water in the carport this morning, Jason, the two ducks and another hen wandered out of the open door, and although I was able to get the hen and ducks back in, Jason trotted off in to the garden and because he can only see out of one eye, panics quite easily if I try and catch him.
I came out half an hour later to discover that the fox had taken advantage of Jason’s free-ranging:
I will keep a very close eye on the coops and runs while this cold weather persists. Poor old lad, but probably the best outcome as his blindness would have made life difficult for him in the future.