Mabel was having her own day of mourning having lost a handful of chickens to a fox the night before, despite elaborate electrical fencing. She was also distraught because her favourite rooster had escaped from his pen this morning. At 84 years old she was certainly too old to grab him and was sure that if he wasn't captured - difficult as that might be - by nightfall the fox would get him too. So Christopher, the kids and I all stationed ourselves at separate posts throughout the farmyard and closed in on the rooster. He slipped by us once and Mabel was certain we'd lost our only chance. But then Christopher, being the farm boy that he is, was able to corner him into the bushes and eventually dive onto him. Mabel was so overjoyed that she gave him to us as a present.
So we brought all the new chickens home. Ours are free-range but we lock them up in the chicken house at night to keep them safe from predators. We kept them in their new house for 48 hours to get settled in and then we let them out to roam around to discover their new surroundings. Not even a week later, the rooster, who hadn't even had the chance to name, wasn't there when we put the chickens to bed at night. I convinced myself that he was locked in a barn by accident and that we'd hear him cock-a-doodle-doo at 4am as usual. But the next morning there was silence. As the fox has cubs this time of year she is often much more relentless in finding food, often venturing out in the day which is unlike her pattern throughout the rest of the year. The truth is - the fox can get the chickens no matter where they are or how well you think you are protecting them. Last year she even chewed through the wood-sided wall of the chicken house in the night and grabbed a hen. For the time being, as we can't handle any more disappointment right this second, we've fenced them in during the day. Not that it will guarantee their safety, but at least it gives us the sense that we are doing what we can to keep them around as long as possible.
|The first egg that our young hens had laid just before Easter.|
|Collecting new hens at Mabel's farm.|
|Our hard-earned young rooster. The other two we've had have taken weeks to announce themselves in the morning, but this guy let out his sweet, young cock-a-doodle-doo on the very first morning. At 3:50am no less!|
|Our new chicken family settling in to their home.|
|The chicken house used to be the kids playhouse, as evidenced by Coco's strict rules painted on the wall.|
|Instagram sensation DonaldDrawbertson posted a little parody of our new chicken acquisition. It's my new favourite family portrait.|
|The gang on the brink of their tentative first day in the farmyard.|
|Gingy, keeping an eye on the new hens.|
|The chickens always love to roost on the balcony railing. But hens can be terribly unfriendly - I hope they weren't shunning the lone girl at the bottom.|
|Our glorious young boy that left us too soon.|