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.
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.
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.