black rock hens

It happened so fast

Wow! 9am, gazing out of the back door, I just caught sight of a blur of black feathers whip past the paddock gate. It was Vindaloo, the black rock hen, moving at speed. Here she is a couple of days ago, scaling my anti-hen defence – a bamboo cane across the top of the paddock gate that’s supposed to stop the chickens from power jumping into the garden where they are NOT allowed. It never stopped Vindie.

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She’s always been an athletic bird. I bought her, with three other POL hybrid pullets last spring from Dudley Mallet in High Halden. So, Vindie moving at speed? I didn’t think too much about it.

Still, I wandered out, coffee in hand to see what was up. I could hear Madam, the bluebell – pictured here behind the legbar’s tail, and Betty the buff Sussex, breaking off their morning egg-laying song and clucking in alarm.

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But no sign of Vindie. I opened the egg-laying boxes; a single egg, but no hen. Nothing round the back of the pen. I checked by the veg patch – and there, by the fence, lay a pile of black feathers. Just a few – so it was possible she had been caught, but got away not too badly harmed. I climbed behind the compost heap (where they love to hide) – nothing. A trail of feathers, leading to further up the paddock up to the hedge gave it all away; it must have been a fox dragging her off.

She’s the second hen taken by a predator, and it’s hard to describe the sense of loss. You learn how to take care of hens the hard way. It’s great to see them free-ranging around and about, but they’ll only ever be safe in a pen, and even then, it’s hard to ensure against a hungry fox.

I need to restock: with only two hens left I’m running low on eggs – and I’ll come to that next.