Monday, December 10, 2007

More Chicken deaths :-(

More sad news on the chicken front. Scramble, Nicks favourite chicken, was taken by the fox at the weekend. That’s the 2nd hen gone in 8 days. I feel guilty because I was out Christmas shopping and by the time I got home it had been dark for 4 hours. The fox had been and gone before I had a chance to shut the door to the coop.

Now poor Omelet is on her own and I rate her chances of survival pretty minimal if I’m brutally honest. The Fox knows she is there, and knows how to get in. I only get home at 6.00pm by which time it has been dark for at least 2 hours, and the fox has access to an open larder.

I have researched into some fox precautions and have seen an automatic pop hole device that is linked to a simple light sensor. When it gets dusk the pop hole on the coop closes using a little motor. This would be excellent for us as we simply can’t be home at 4.00pm every night of the week.

I’ve also seen chicken houses that are high up in the air with long ladders down to the ground. Apparently the chooks can climb ladders but foxes can’t, meaning you don’t need to shut up the coop at night. Has anyone heard if this actually works in practice?

Nick has been doing his bit by weeing around the perimeter of the enclosure. The smell is supposed to put off the fox. Frankly it’s putting me off as well, so this isn’t a good long term solution.

The other consideration is trying to protect the whole of our garden boundary. 3 sides would be ok but the longest side is lined with shrubs and hedges: easy for a fox to wriggle through but impossible for a human to get in with fencing materials. Foxes can jump over 6 feet, so fencing the whole garden would be no small undertaking.

The final option is to use electric fences around the chicken run itself. I have issues with this on aesthetic grounds and also on practical grounds. The require a lot of maintenance, are costly and I suspect it couldn’t be as nicely hidden as the current fence which weaves it’s way through the plants. Am I right in thinking that nothing must touch the fence or it shorts out? Would I have to make sure no plants touch it at all?

I feel terrible admitting this but part of me hopes that Omelet is taken by the fox soon. The reasons for this are a) hens like to live in a flock – she will not have a nice life all by herself, b) this will give us time to re-evaluate the chicken enclosure and protect it better for the spring when we can get a new flock and c) if we go chicken-less for a few months the fox will stop prowling around and might forget to come back in the spring. I promise I will not intentionally leave Omelet open to attack, but if she meets her end then it might be better for the future of our long term chicken keeping.


Blogger Victoria said...

Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall resorted to henhouses up off the ground in an early series of River Cottage, after he had a fox problem. They seemed to work for him. He had a hen box on top of a tall pole with a little ladder running up to it. I hope that helps!

2:19 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

I suspect - like you that the fox will keep coming back.
We lost all bar one of our first flock in a frenzied attack by several foxes. Like you I was late to lock them up - it was after dark and in fact I locked up dead and dying hens. I still feel guilty - I didn't look in the henhouse until the morning - I had just locked the door and headed back to the warmth.
There are lots of deterrents that you can get but none of them seem to work - particularly in an urban enviroment where foxes are much more of a problem than in th countryside.
I do feel for you.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Dad said...

Rather than let the fox eat the 3rd hen, eat it yourselves. At least some good will come of it!


10:42 PM  
Anonymous Mum said...

This is what comes from living with someone brought up on a farm!

10:46 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Foxes can climb ladders - they can climb anything - I'm not going to repeat my thoughts on bringing back hunting....they can also dig right under fences, so if you go down that route you'll have to set them quite deep in the earth. You could try feeding the foxes with cat food instead - that may satisfy their hunger and keep them away from the chickens...apart from that there's not really a lot you can do - it's nature's way I'm afraid.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Found on the web..... "I've been told that the smell of humans can keep foxes away. The easiest and cheapest way is to go to the barbers or hairdressers and ask for a bag of hair clippings. Put big handfuls of hair into old stocking/tights legs and hang them around your perimeter fence. The smell of people should keep them out. And quite possibly rabbits too! I hope that helps."

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest you provide Tim with a small chair, a pack of lager and a shotgun this weekend. Refuse to let him in the house until he has killed the fox.

11:25 AM  
Blogger OboeJane said...

i heard that if you use the hen house on legs theory then you may have to train the hens to use it first! Sounds like hours of fun...

oh, and apparently fox hunting never went away. i am told (by someone who does it) that you can still chase the fox in the same old way as long as you "intend" to kill it by some other means such as shooting or hawking

6:29 PM  

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