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The enemy at the gates

My father was the one who had kept chickens. There's a story about how he got started but this isn't it. Instead this is about how we lost said chickens - to the dreaded fox. On more than one occasion. I confess, one of those occasions was entirely my fault for not closing the run door at sunset. It was always a horror story and… spoiler alert… they all died at the end. Each time, the gut wrenching feeling that follows the massacre is ever strong. Not so much that I begrudge the fox wanting a poultry meal... But the waste of cadavers.

Foxes will kill more chickens than they can eat - they will never eat the chickens there and then rather they will carry off what they can and store the extra carcasses for later. Apparently with free-range chickens, a fox might kill several chickens and then stop. In a restricted space like a chicken coop, the chickens are trapped, and the fox will wipe out the entire coop. In the one case it had done this systematically, laying the bodies out in a line!

I've read that foxes aren't mean and it's nothing personal. I can assure you, seeing a trail of dead chickens meticulously laid out felt personal at the time. I'm certain that anyone reading this who has lost chickens to a fox knows what I'm trying to say. It had to have been watching and waiting and it knew how to get in and out without being caught. It had staked the joint and pounced literally on the opportunity due to human failure!

Urban foxes will scavenge for food in dustbins, and often catch pigeons and rats. Most foxes in rural areas will eat according to the season... In the summer that might be fruit, mostly berries and in colder weather they would hunt rabbits, rodents and birds. Foxes will eat frogs and earthworms as well as carrion.

With winter approaching, and chickens needing more grass space, we thought to share our summer investment in chicken security.

We've upgraded our chicken area. Not only is there a meshed area with one foot deep trenching all the way around. There's a loose mesh covering the top. And finally, the piece de resistance, electric poultry netting to surround the run. So far the chickens run around during the day outside of the run but within the fence. They've stopped trying to break out through it and so far no fox. It isn't conclusive. It's not very high. So I half expect the fox to jump over it. Time will tell whether this will keep the enemy at the gates!


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