On the approach to Christmas my wild food activities ground to a halt and the focus changed to festive merriment. We hunkered down next to the new wood burner, with food and family in excess, celebrating in traditional Christmas fashion.
All was well until Boxing Day.
Having lost all but one of our ‘fox fodder’ hens (still laying but past their best when we bought them cheap) back in November, we had a barren period with solitary old brown hen and her handsome welsummer husband.
They seemed a little lonely on their own and the lack of gorgeous orange yolked eggs was getting me down too, so, just a few weeks ago, I took a trip to a lovely farm up Morvah way, in the depths of freezing winter, and came home proudly with my new brood of gorgeous hens. 2 light sussex and 3 marans.
Ooh, they looked lovely next to the welsummer cockerel and put old brown to shame with her dowdy plumage. They were a little slow in laying, understandably since it was the depths of winter, but what a pretty bunch they were, nervous, but pretty. We probably had about a dozen eggs from them in three weeks.
And then on Boxing day, distracted by the festivities, I forgot to shut the gate to their run… I awoke early the following morning to the sound incessant crowing. Then, I knew…. oh S**t , Damn, B****r. I jumped out of bed, chucked on my wellies and ran to the chicken house. Empty. Dead light sussex on the ground outside the house. Cockerel crowing in the front garden. Ran round the garden looking for hens or evidence and just found some feathers. Oh, no, not again. The bloody fox. I picked up dead hen wondering if we’d eat it or not, hung it up in the barn and shut cockerel away to keep him safe from the fox. Those dozen gorgeous eggs must have cost about £5 a piece.
I naturally assumed we had lost all our hens and went to my neighbours to ask if they’d seen any, and Robert said that he'd seen old brown hiding out on top of the silage feeder. Before they knew it, old brown had fallen into the hopper and been through the machine, manhandled by prongs and spat out on the conveyor belt.
Old brown, barely alive, was now face down in a cardboard box by their Rayburn. I retrieved old brown from next door, re-located her to the chicken hospital next to our wood burner, and waited. She looked all misshapen and on death’s door. She couldn't move her neck and her front seemed to have been squashed out of all chicken proportions, as she lay there in her catatonic state. Mary, my neighbour, reckons if a chicken lasts the day after a trauma then it will probably pull through. It’s been 8 days now. She’s living in our bathroom, with underfloor heating. I’ve been force feeding her water and porridge three times a day, and she’s starting to perk up. I’m taking my chicken nurse duties very seriously. She doesn’t like me force feeding her with a syringe, but what else can I do? She is however enjoying the drops of water that make it through her beak and she's starting to get a bit feisty (a good sign).
Welsummer cockerel is now all alone and I’m hoping to re-unite him with his wife as soon as I can. No idea if she’ll be able to feed herself again. Her misshapen front seems to be less misshapen now and I’m hoping she’ll pull through.
Interestingly, I still have no desire to kill the fox. Fantastic Mr Fox has struck again, but I just feel that it’s fair game. It’s a game of stealth and ingenuity and he ALMOST won again. Fingers crossed for Old Brown.