Life among the chickens

Life among the chickens

chicken1

Strange weather we’re getting… I think we’ve had everything now. One could be forgiven for expecting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to come trit-trotting over the horizon at any moment.

In the middle of it all, I have just been enjoying a brief spell during which the sun put in a surprise appearance between bouts of severe wind and horizontal rain. I’ve been helping put mains electric fence around the top of our chicken run after the massacre of my last four brown girls by a fox. We are not a family that names our chickens, purely because, as they are all identical brown ones, we can never remember which is which. But that doesn’t mean that we view them with any less affection.

Chickens are quite charming. Thick as two short planks, but charming none-the-less. If you watch our video of ’The Garden’, you will see the chickens chasing enthusiastically and good-naturedly after my son… watching a chicken run is always worthwhile; it bears remarkable and heartwarming resemblance to a very large woman trying to run for a bus while carrying all her shopping. Chickens are good natured, tolerant and generally delightful… unlike cockerels for whom I have a completely different set of adjectives.

We got our first three girls at the same moment as so many people start to keep chickens… you get your small patch of land in the countryside, you buy some wellies, some reliable outdoor wear and shortly after that you get chickens. It’s a kind of life force.
I had quaint ideas about free range hens clucking contentedly and aesthetically around my garden and keeping the slugs down. That lasted until the first fox killed them off. So I put some electric sheep wire around an area of ground big enough for them to busily do the kind of things chickens busily do, and I moved it on to fresh ground every week or so.

I soon learnt that chickens can fly better than we tend to give them credit for, and would, without provocation or common sense, fly out into the waiting jaws of any hungry fox; so I found instructions in a book to tell me how to clip wings. This isn’t quite as blood curdling as it sounds; what you actually do is to clip the very tips off the flight feathers on one wing, a bit like clipping finger nails, thus unbalancing the chicken when she attempts to fly and, in the unlikely event that she actually remembers, will make her think better of the whole idea.

The year before last, we discovered that the electric fence had ceased to be a deterrent to foxes. This was revealed to us when one jumped in, laid waste to my girls and jumped out again. Repeating the process until all my chickens were gone, and then repeating the whole thing again three days later, when I’d just replaced them all.

chickens2

I’d had enough. I mean, if you can’t outwit a fox then what hope is there in life? So, with ambition and determination, we chose a piece of prime, south facing, grassland the size of a small, country estate, planted some fruit trees in it, and stuck a six foot high fence around the outside. We set electric wire around the base on the outside and sat back to enjoy our new found chicken security. Think of the film ’Chicken Run’ but with the idyllic chicken paradise being inside rather than outside.

We’ve enjoyed the contented well being of our chickens ever since; that is, until last Tuesday. We don’t know how the fox managed to get in; the fence is designed to be impossible to dig under, is looking undisturbed all the way around and there are no holes any where. All we can assume is that our fox has managed to scale the six foot fence, catch a chicken and then scale the fence again with chicken in it’s mouth… four times in short succession. I say this because any chicken remains were found outside the enclosure. Think SAS fox with grappling hooks and night goggles, with the tune to ’The Great Escape’ playing in the background.

So, hence, my use of a brief bit of sunshine. We’ve added a strand of electric wire around the top of our six foot fence, put a mains fencer on it and… watch this space.

We have six new, identical brown girls who are trying to get used to their new surroundings. They seem to be able to find their way around and go in and out of their roosting box by day… but come the night time, when the rain doth fall and the cold wind doth blow, I will find most of them in a miserable heap outside their run, “we really can’t remember how to get inside… could you help us please?” Hopefully, they’ll gradually get themselves sorted out.

Where next? I’ve heard Kevin muttering about security cameras, I wondered about search lights and razor wire. Gatling guns? A night watchman?

And, meanwhile the foxes continue to scheme. So far, they’re ahead.

And as Kevin pointed out, very gently to me, for the cost of our six foot enclosure, we could have just kept buying new chickens and still been quids in.

The man has no sensitivity.

To see our chickens in the video ‘The Garden’,  click on one of the pictures.

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