The Fox and The Gander

Mar 23, 2012 by

We first got hens here 14 years ago when my son moved to a new primary school in the next village. There was a craze in the school at that time with many of the kids keeping hens.  It was the usual story – “but mum everyone has them – can I not get some too?”  The hens were just the beginning and were rapidly followed by ducks and geese.   At that time we also had two ponies, my cob, a dog and numerous cats.  The hens, ducks and geese were duly installed into an old wooden playhouse which the kids had outgrown and we built a make-shift run around it.  As with every animal that sets a hoof, paw or a claw here they got the run of the place (excuse the pun). They viewed the make-shift run as jail but for me it was a necessary evil; when I got fed up of having to search a huge garden for their latest favourite place to lay –  usually in the hedge but also in the stable or in the wood shed.

The geese were a magnificent pair and soon produced a gosling much to the delight of the kids especially as it was the gander that took control of the parenting. They were absolutely fascinated that the daddy took such an active role.  The gander was wicked and took great delight in chasing anyone and everyone dumb enough to enter “his” territory.  My mother and my daughter were chased up the field by him.  My mother was terrified and this was a woman who grew up with wicked turkeys and whose best friend was afraid to call for her to walk to school. Unfortunately the gosling met an untimely end under a visiting van.  The gander got some sort of stroke (possibly after a failed fox attack) and lost the use of his legs.  I took him into a very bemused vet who told me I had to try and get him to exercise the legs or he would never regain use of them.  I cut a hole in a toy deck chair and sat him in it everyday and he paddled his legs and got a work out.  He recovered surprisingly well.  The ducks were given an old plastic sandpit converted into a pool and made a huge mess everywhere but were great fun and lovely to look at waddling about.

The eggs were a bonus despite all the hassle particularly the goose eggs which made the most amazing deep yellow sponges. For a number of years we had a plentiful supply of the freshest, tastiest eggs but gradually a bit of laziness and work and other commitments meant we were not as dutiful as we should have been in locking them in at night and Mr. Fox was quick to take advantage.  Little by little he reduced my stock until finally he finished off the gander (by this stage he had got the goose).  It was easier not to bother replacing them but I really missed the eggs.  If I ever saw a sign advertising eggs for sale and it was obvious the hens producing them were free to roam then I was first in line to buy them.

A few years ago I decided I missed “real” eggs so decided to get hens and ducks again.  Last summer a fox (vixen as I later found out) made several attacks in broad daylight.  She got a couple of ducks and another time ran across in full view of my kitchen window snapping at the tail feathers of my rooster.  She managed to get a hen another time.  Poultry are a nuisance despite what people say as the fox is an ever present threat.  You need to organise someone to lock them in if you are not going to be home soon after dark, they need a decent amount of space to roam and plenty of grass and vegetation.  They are extremely dirty and they are a menace in a newly planted garden casually scratching new plants to one side in order to root out bugs.  However, the up side of this is they are great slug busters and chicken poo makes great manure.  The eggs are really amazing and there is not a shop bought egg – free range or organic that comes close to the flavour, colour or freshness.

My Cuckoo Maran rooster

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  1. I find it much easier to remember in the depths of winter this time of year is a disaster! Usually sitting down relaxing and the shout goes up "did anyone do the hens?"

  2. yup… have suffered with many instances of henocide where the fox has wiped out the flock due to carelessness by not locking them up securely up every night…have had to go out and put hens out of their mauled misery with a spade. We keep promising never again, but we keep making mistakes…

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