It was a Thursday morning like any other. My day off, (I work Mon-Wed) 7am, Elizabeth and I were in the kitchen thinking about breakfast and Ged had been out in the yard for a while.
He came in and said: “brace yourself, I’ve got some bad news.”
The cows were calving so I just presumed it was something to do with that.
“The chickens are dead,” he said. I cried out and put my hands over my face.
“All of them? I shrieked?”
“Most of them,” he said.
I pulled my coat on and went to investigate.
One of the Cotswold legbars and orpingtons (Hilda) were by the gate where they usually wait for food. As I opened the gate I was hit by the most horrible scene-feathers everywhere.
The worst thing was, it was my fault.
We’d had the chickens for a few months and, after adding to our flock, our friend and builder (who lends his hand to anything) built us a massive new shed-sized coop which we could walk into through a full-sized door but that had a little trap door for the chickens.
We had got complacent. We left the trap door open and a fox rushed in and killed most of our lovely chickens and taken nearly all of them away.
For those of you who don’t have chickens, when it is dark, they go to sleep-not a normal sleep like most animals, they are semi-concious so they are sitting targets for any predators because unless they wake, they are easily caught.
As the day went on, one of our buff orpingtons was found (alive) in a neighbours garden. Poor Gok the cock was gone-not even a trace apart from his beautiful tail feathers. He was about 2 feet high and as my neice pointed out-would have fed a family of four for a week.
Pearl the light Sussex was dead from shock in the field and Margery the silkie was found dead with her neck broken. In the shock I think they had run for their lives and been caught.
One of the Cotswold legbars was there too. The three remaining were alive but severely shaken and, in hindsight, I should have penned them all in the coop with food and water for a few days to let them recover but I thought they would be ok.
Margot and Phylis refused to go in the coop that night. They must not have felt safe. The next morning Margot had gone and the morning after that, Phylis was gone too.
Poor Hilda was the only, lonely chicken left. 11 birds down to 1.
To some people they may only be chickens and, compared with some of the horrible things that go on in the world I suppose they were.
I just felt so guilty about it all and even now, three weeks on, I can’t think about them without getting a knot in my stomach.
I learnt my lesson though, I will never leave the coops open again.
I have since read into it. Foxes apparently watch you every night to see what time you put the chickens away. It was only a matter of time.
No matter how tired you are or how bad the weather is, if you keep free range chickens, learn from my terrible mistake. There are foxes out there and they are watching you.