The blog entries on our Productive Land project dried up in Autumn, for a number of reasons. I’ll catch you up soon, beginning with last Autumn’s harvest and this year’s planting as soon as I can, but a major preoccupation has been keeping chickens. It’s been a mixture of joy and anguish so far, and right now it’s only the latter.
Our initial pair – Big Coopie and Little Coopie – arrived in September, and started laying in February. We were getting around ten fantastic eggs a week. However, the day run we had built was designed to keep them in, not to keep predators out. We were scrupulous about locking them up by dusk, but in the day we let them wander about inside their (mostly netted) pen. One morning, though, a fox got in – in broad daylight – and killed Little Coopie. Caught in the act, the fox fled, and Little Coopie died in the kitchen, probably of shock. After this, we resolved to only let them out in their pen under supervision. The rest of the time they would be locked away, safely.
We got two lovely little hens – Snowy, a Light Sussex, and Buffy (you’ve guessed it, a Buff Sussex) – a few weeks ago, and after a bit of initial tension with Big Coopie, they’d settled in and were having a whale of a time.
Then today, a hammer blow: a fox (or more than one) got into the coop itself, while it was locked – through the nesting box, whether by brute force or cunning I’m not sure. While the lock is supposed to be foxproof I think if enough force were applied it could slide open. Snowy and Buffy were taken – Snowy evidently made a run for it first, getting at least to the other side of the garden judging from the trail of white feathers – while Big Coopie must have stood and fought behind the cage, being killed and left there.
It makes me feel very guilty. The whole point of this part of the project was to be able to eat delicious eggs knowing that they have come from chickens whose lives were as fulfilled as possible (broadly defined). Though they had plenty of opportunity to root about in the foliage and so on, the net result is still that four lovely chickens have died. To carry on with this endeavour we will need to make sure the coop itself is even more secure.