For three years people asked “free range hens – don’t you worry about foxes?”. “Not at all”, I would reply casually, and so our hens wandered all over the place, right up until the night I came to their house, to be greeted only by the plaintive cheeping of one of the baby hens, who was hiding in a bush. Of course at first I had no idea what was going on, and it was only the discovery of one dead hen, and an injured survivor that made me realise that something had taken the birds from the hen house in the time between them going into roost, and me coming to shut the door.
All our old friends, our best layers, and characters all of them- 11 hens and Robbie the cockerel, vanished without trace, and we’ve never found a sign of them. Presumably the fox came and took them away one by one as they slept. They’d just started laying again too. The only survivors, 2 tiny young birds who hid, and the 8 or so semi wild cockerels and 2 hens who live in the tree above the coop. Just goes to show that the bird’s natural tree dwelling instincts are successful ones.
And now, as these things tend to work themselves out, our friend Liam had to rehome his hens, and so eight fine looking birds have come to live with us, and the only remaining coop dwelling cockerel, who is surprised and delighted in equal measure, although about half the size of some of his new companions.
Now of course, I’m taking care to shut the hens in early, and our new arrivals are living within the big hen enclosure which offers them some protection, but the loss of our old birds is a hard way to learn that complacency is never a good idea, especially for them.