10th February 2014

Can hardly bring myself to tell you the news. Such sad news – the fox got my lovely hens. 

I suppose I knew it would happen in the end, but you and they live in hope. And to console myself, they lived the life of Riley for two and a half years. That doesn’t really diminish the guilt I fell at not having been able to protect them, or undermine the true horror that all poultry lovers feel in this position. 

It happened in daylight, the first fox I’d seen apart from dusk and dawn, at 2 in the afternoon, the hens were pottering near the house. I was in the kitchen, thinking of dodging the showers and doing a little gardening. I suddenly felt uncomfortable and went outside, found a few feathers – strange, wrong time of the year for feathers, and then saw something in the corner of my eye. Both were already dead. Not a squawk! Where were the usual alarm calls that accompanied any other arrival in the garden of miscellaneous cats, seagulls and magpies? I can only assume they were so shocked – and it’s an oft told tale – that it happens without a sound. 

I picked up their remains and put them in their house, to gain a little breathing space and stop the fox from finishing his meal. Decided eventually to take the corpses to the vet to be incinerated. Would have preferred to bury them in the garden, but they’d have only been dug up again. And the carcasses were too big for our tiny little food bins. Not a fitting end either. Amazed at their weight, about 10 lbs each – no wonder they had to be eaten in situ, I delivered them to the surgery and was charged £19. 

My garden seems a dead space. I don’t wonder out there five or six times a day. Just look rather morosely out of the window. Have seen the fox several times since – he has a very damaged back leg and tail – too damaged to catch the rabbits on Prospect Hill, I suppose. That’s his and my excuse. 

Will I start again? Too early to say. I miss my hens terribly, and can only now imagine life without them. Will need to review my poultry-keeping practise, though, and look into some kind of daytime protection or be prepared to offer them a life within their run.