Tuesday 23 April 2013

Too Close for Comfort, Mister Fox!

These lovely long sunny evenings have us all relaxed. It's still broad daylight and bright bright sunshine at 8 o'clock and the geese and chickens do not want to go 'to bed' half seven at the earliest. Last night I took the big leap of faith and decided that instead of rounding everybody up and locking them in before our own supper (about 7 pm), I would chill out, have our food and then go and round them up. This we did and sat down to enjoy a lovely risotto and cold lamb with the sun streaming in through the window.

Having cleared away the table things at about quarter to 8, I went out to do the honours. The geese had actually been indulging in some late afternoon egg laying, so they were in the goose-house (née calf house) anyway and the chickens had all taken themselves off to their perches in their end of the building. I just had to shut and chain the calf house door, drop the chickens' pop-hole flap and pass the usual handful of sprouted wheat in to the geese for supper, ignoring Gander's harsh, screechy shouts that I was getting a bit close to his ladies' nests.

Minutes later I was on to the next job, taking the dogs out for a comfort stop and romp off the leads in the orchard. I came indoors from the bird-wrangling, grabbed the three leads (dogs are still on leads in the garden because they can not be trusted not to vanish through a hedge) and collared the dogs, before stepping out through the front door, pulled enthusiastically by three westies who couldn't wait to get outside.

That's when we saw the fox. It was only a small young one, not much bigger than a large cat - in fact I first thought it was Blue picking up some gingery low-sun rays. It quickly 'became' the fox. It was in our 'woods' not 50 yards from the front door but seeing us, it shot off down the woods, on down the drive and then nipped through a hole in the hedge to the right of our gate. I was as surprised as he was (but I think he was more scared!). We've not actually seen a fox on the premises before though we know they are about. The dogs regularly get all 'prey focused' on after-dark patrols, swapping their usual aimless meanderings for pulling in one direction, snapping, snarling and nearly choking themselves on the leads in their rush to 'get at' some noise, smell or sight which is lost on me. We know that our first hen was taken by a fox way back, before William was on the scene, and neighbours regularly warn us about our free ranging preferences.

So I did some extra patrols, letting the dogs have a good sniff and scent mark on Mr Fox's trail, I blocked up the coop door with an extra big log, double checked the rabbits, we made sure the cats were both indoors last night and I checked out my poultry discussion website for advice. They advise contacting the local gun club where someone might be willing to stake the place out in the hope of 'getting' him on a return visit. Finally, obviously, I have abandoned the idea of late nights on the tiles for birdies. They will be rounded up pre supper despite their protestations. Most of the chooks actually roost 7 feet up on the top perch, so might have been alright anyway, but we currently have Broody Betty down at ground level sitting on her eggs, and the geese are ground-roosters. He was only a small fox, so might have been nervous of taking on our geese, especially in the breeding season, but he'd not have thought twice about making off with our broody, which would have been especially heart breaking so close to our potential hatching day.

Too close for comfort, Mr Fox. You are not welcome here. Stay away!


Anne Wilson said...

Much as I love wild life as a poultry keeper to me 'the only good fox is a dead one'. You could try scent marking around the boundaries yourself Matt!

Matt Care said...

Ha ha! Already using all the 'scent' I can muster trying to accelerate my compost heaps. A good reason to quaff a few beers, maybe! By the way local Gun Club guy has now been in touch and is trying to find us somebody PLUS a hitch hiker we picked up today turned out to be an HGV driver with small holding locally and gun-ability. We are spoilt for choice.