Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Fox vs. chickens

I think the fox cub in the trap was a portent of things to come.

These warm evenings mean we can sleep with the window open. Besides a pleasant night breeze, I can hear any chicken stirrings or unwanted predators. One is usually caused by the other. At 1.30am I jumped out of bed - I could hear chickens being attacked. I looked out the window and all was calm in our garden. It was Simon the gardener's chickens. He's only a couple doors down from us (door number four in a village with six doors in total).

I took the shepherd and a flashlight, and jogged down the road. Dakota will see off any predator and I hoped we could help if Simon and his brood were in trouble. No fox. All the chickens were fine. Theories are that a rat got in or the neighbor's cat had been the culprit. They were just a bit spooked.

Simon's lucky that I sleep in pyjamas. I got back home and found Mike standing in the garden in his birthday suit (which I told him needs ironing).

Other chickens were not so lucky last night. Ronnie, another underkeeper, shot a fox in his chicken run while it feasted on one of his hens. And down the Big House, a hen brooding on eggs was taken off her nest. It's always the hens. I think we might go out tonight with a rifle and a lamp and see if we can stop any foxes before they drop by for another visit.

My crow traps have gone quiet again. I sometimes think when I'm "controlling" the crows and magpies if, in future years, we will be working to protect them. I was looking at a book from a century ago about large sparrow hunts. House sparrows were considered a pest and hunted in great numbers. Something to do with thatched roofs (rooves?) on houses which were the norm then (they are not uncommon now). Whether they nested in there or ate it, I have no idea.

In the past few years, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds decreed that house sparrows, along with starlings (also previously a pest species), are on the decline. I feed the birds in my garden to help re-establish the numbers. One century's pest is another's protected species.

The common buzzard (Buteo buteo) courtesy

Buzzards, a sort of hawk, are increasing in numbers so much that there has been a push to take away their protected status. Gamekeepers traditionally loathe buzzards because of their taste for young pheasants, but aren't allowed to shoot or trap them. I found a dead buzzard this morning while walking the dogs. It hadn't been shot, and there was no outward sign of trauma (see, what did I tell you, there should be an CSI: Woodlands). Overpopulation can result in the death of weaker members of a species. Maybe dead buzzards will become a more common sight.

Gamekeeping students have been here today helping with jobs on the shoot. This has freed me to catch up with paperwork and make dinner, not just tonight's but tomorrow's too (Lamb lasagne in case you're desperate to know). For the first time in days we're eating dinner before 10pm. I'm eating mine while I write this. My multitasking is improving.

As a woman I'm supposed to excel at multitasking, but as I get older I've reached the point where my multitasking skills are being hindered by my ageing brain. I've adapted by making sure that one of the two tasks being done simultaneously is a no-brainer task. For example:

I can catch up on my reading while filling all the hatcher trays with water, and keep the door propped open with my foot. Here, I am the embodiment of multitasking. And if you are coveting my fashionable footwear, you too can get the same look if you start buying your clothes at the same place you buy your animal feeds and drill bits.

I wished I could have brought my knitting instead. I bet Mike £10 ($15) that I could finish the cardigan I'm knitting by the end of April. When I realised I couldn't make the date, I proposed double or nothing for the end of May. I have half a side to finish, and the sewing up, and only 4 days left. I'm already trying to argue for extra time in lieu of the fact that I've been helping to put up pheasant pens, deliver chicks for the shoot, and fill hatcher trays out of the kindness of my heart. Mike's not budging. I may have to start my day at 5am tomorrow. Unless my need for sleep is more stubbornly unyielding than my need to win. Both are pretty strong.

Finally, a chicken update: my two offenders have been dealt with. Leniency prevailed. I put the game hen in the pheasant pen in the woods. She immediately took up with a bantam cockerel in there from last year, so they now have each other. Myfanwy is going to live with a local family who just like having chickens but aren't worried about eggs. The perfect home for an egg-eating chicken. And I don't have to take anything for a walk to the log pile.

Well, that's not exactly true. The last remaining meat chicken has decided to start eating eggs. She was given a reprieve because she was laying. She has sealed her own fate. Now she will be sealed in her own juices. When the weather cools down, we will be visiting the log pile together. 


Maria said...

Hello. Loving your latest post - especially the last paragraph, sealed her own fate / sealed in her own juices :o)
Glad Myfanwy found a suitable home.
And not that it matters, but it is 'roofs', it's just pronounced 'rooves'. Who said the language was logical??

Poppy Cottage said...

No I will not be able to sleep. I have visions of Mike running down the road in his Birthday suit. Thanks Jen!!!! Bring you knitting here, we'll get it finished!!

Jennifer Montero said...

Maria - I'm glad Myfanwy found a new home too. I'm soft on my old cockerel's offspring.

Of COURSE grammar matters! And I'm a big fan of the book 'Eats, Shoots, and Leaves'. I'm glad someone knew the roofs v rooves thing. Trying to combine British and US english has made my ability to use the language even worse, if that were possible!

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - Mike has no problem with nakedness. You might want to call before you come over, just to be on the safe side ;-)

Paula said...

Laughed out loud at the idea Mike's birthday suit needed ironing.

I thought the British Upper Crust was all about fox hunting- why the hell aren't they doing their job?

Jennifer Montero said...

Paula - Britian banned fox hunting (chasing foxes with a pack of hounds) a few years ago. Hunts can only follow scent trails now, much to their disgust. Shooting foxes is still legal.

Fox hunting was never really for the purpose of controlling foxes, and hunt masters would often fall out with gamekeepers who shot foxes, complaining that the gamekeepers were ruining their sport. Since the ban came in, there are no more or no less foxes.

I'm glad you found the comment funny - Mike didn't see the humor in it. . .

Terry Scoville said...

I loved the last paragraph too. Too funny, that'll keep me going while I'm out woodcutting today. Happy to hear that Myfanwy has found a good home. Good luck with getting Mike's cardigan finished, I'm putting my money on you!

Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

Such a funny post! Multitasking is my arch enemy, the two of us only get along once in a blue moon. I really enjoy your blog!

P.S. I would have eaten the egg eater...

p.p.s. I also totally get the shoe comment, I think I have the same pair which works well with all my stained, ripped farm clothes.

martha in mobile said...

Chicken predators and multi-tasking -- all in a day's work, eh? My daughter was putting up the chickens last night and called out that a raccoon was waiting in the azaleas for the pullets to go by, so I took out my pellet gun and stung his arse, then rushed back inside to save the garlic I was sauteing from burning. My husband came home to find me cooking with my pellet gun resting on my hip and said, "Honey, we've got to get you out of Alabama. You've gone native."

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Funny you should post this the day after Kevin was woken up at 4:00 AM by squawking in the coop (I sleep with earplugs, because Kevin snores like a backhoe, and didn't hear a thing). It was a false alarm, which he determined by using the binoculars to check out the coop through the kitchen window -- in his birthday suit. What is it about men and nakedness?

I think you've been had on the cardigan. Mike bet you couldn't finish it by the assigned date, knowing full well he was going to keep you incredibly busy with hatching duties.

Who gets the sweater?

Paula said...

Thanks for the clarification.

I also find Mike not seeing the humor in it funny....

Jennifer Montero said...

Terry - Thanks for the vote of confidence. One day left but I think I can make it.

HKS - I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I don't know why I look at my layers as off-limits for eating, and don't have an iota of regret for the meat chickens.

The pink shoes replaced my green pair which wore out. I chose pink as occasionally I throw my shoe at one of the dogs to startle her, usually when one of them is eating cow poop. It's easier to find a pink shoe in the long grass. Never try this training technique with your car keys...

Jennifer Montero said...

Martha - your comment made me laugh loud enough to wake up the sleeping dogs at my feet.
I didn't realise that coons will take chickens too, I always thought of them as egg thiefs.

Well done on deterring the coon AND saving dinner! And your new 'native' status. Have you thought of changing your air rifle for a .22?

Tamar - I take solace that it's not just my husband with the whole naked thing. I think men are programmed to 'go commando'. Mooning each other seems to be another male phenomenon.

I think you're on to something with the sabotage theory. I told Mike this morning that I only have to sew the cardigan together now, and he's asked me to help bit the chicks today!

I made the sweater for myself. I try not to subject my loved ones to too many hand knits. They are an acquired fashion taste, and not everyone wants to smell of sheep. Bar the exceptional types who read this blog, of course!