This is the sight that greeted us on our return from holiday in France. An empty chicken run, save for a few feathers scattered across the apple strewn ground. Our remaining four chickens, Snowdrop, Pebble, Dusk and Hazel had been despatched by a fox.
I could understand if this had happened in the Spring when vixens scavenge to feed their hungry cubs but this seemed like an act of wanton destruction. The urban/suburban fox doesn't just kill for food but seems to be consumed by a blood lust that drives it to slaughter for the fun of it. The vandal leaves a trail of carcasses to be cleared up by the devastated owner or, in our case, the unsuspecting chicken sitter.
We are used to handling the demise of chickens; some die from an undiagnosed illness and others are despatched once their laying days are over. Our delinquent Labrador Bramble has on occasions bumped off the odd chook when we forgot to put them away at night. However, there is something infuriating about the bushy tailed vagrant who turns up in dead of night, does his work and is on his way before his crime is discovered.
So why do we persist and plan to restock the orchard with another batch of chickens? Mainly because once you have tasted eggs from your own chickens there is simply no competition from the supermarket. The yolks are a dazzlingly rich gold and taste sublime. Cakes, pavlova, and eggs cooked every which way are delicious. You know that your eggs have been laid by chickens enjoying freedom to strut, scrape and peck and fed on good quality feed supplemented by kitchen vegetable scraps.
Chickens are also fun pets. Each chicken has its own character and lays distinctive eggs, they sort out a pecking order, flap around in dust baths and clear the weeds from under the fruit bushes. They are happy to get on with life with the minimum of fuss and care as all the average chook demands is a place to roost, a supply of food and plenty of clean fresh water.
Oh yes, and the one thing we failed to supply... Protection from the not so fantastic Mr. Fox.
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