Although both issues have had me equally concerned, the latter of which has been resolved somewhat now, the issue of Chick was most alarming. On Friday “Chick” came to an untimely end at the hands of Mrs Fox. His swift, if not brutal death, was largely down to his cockerel-like bloody-mindedness and his want to explore and find tasty treats.
The wood isn’t as idyllic as it sounds and I think I should illustrate further. Surrounding one side of the allotment, the wood is a strange old place, it’s more of a swamp than your typical wood with mud calf-deep in places and a good blanket of brambles and other obstacles to make slow any progress.
In the twenty minutes or so in which I tried to corrall Chick, he enjoyed scratching about in the drier areas adjoining the site paying not one bit of notice to me and my attempts to direct him back to the safety of the coop. As I tried desperately to get near the soon to be takeaway dinner, I successfully collected a number of thorns, notably bramble and blackthorn - great, and covered myself with the rancid stagnant mud from the waterlogged wood. In some pain and just when I thought I was starting to make progress, Chick turned and headed in the opposite direction to the coop - heading deeper in to the wood. He was now a good 100 metres or so away from me and there was no way that I could negotiate my way through the undergrowth and thick mud with any efficiency to direct him back.
I opted for plan B – shake the corn tin and wait for his return. In the past this technique has worked well for the rest of the flock as they know this means tasty food awaits and I make a point of doing this each evening so that they’re conditioned to come when needed. Whilst sitting next to the coop with the rest of the girls enjoying their corn and bugs, a very loud and alarming honking could be heard. Instantly I knew it was all over for him. I ran over to look and caught sight of an incredibly muddy fox and one very dead Chick tangled up in a patch of brambles. The fox quickly made good its escape and headed back in to the wood with her prized catch. I had no idea what to do and I was helpless to intervene.
As beautiful as nature is it is also a savage beast and this was a lesson in just how quickly it can claim its victims. Chick’s future was by no means certain, what with the main concern being his sex and the amount of noise he was likely to make, but that said I was really looking forward to how he would mature and how his personality would develop. I was even hoping to breed from him at the start of next year to increase the size of the flock.
I’ve never owned a cockerel before and as he was the first Chick I ever hatched the “special” tag applied to him. I guess it’s comforting to know that he will go on to support the fox and a whole range of other wildlife through winter, even if it does mean it deprives me in the process and removes a great addition to the flock. Keeping chickens secure in a run is certainly one option but I do like them to have a little bit more room to roam when I’m there to keep an eye out as badgers and foxes live close by and can be seen most days.
The girls have always enjoyed a roam on my plot and around the hen house but I wonder if this is too big a risk, knowing just how quickly the predators act?
Over the winter months I'll complete my plans to extend the chicken run although it is unfortunate that Chick can't be a part of it and the railway sleepers that were ear marked for the construction are no more. Onwards and upwards!