A very unwelcome bit of excitement in our part of the French countryside yesterday . . .
I’ll spare the gore but, heading to the orchard yesterday at noon, to collect eggs and have a chat with the hens, I was very surprised not to see all three out pecking & scratching in their enclosure in the shade of the apple trees. Everything was eerily quiet . . . and the only hen visible was Ruby, looking scrawny & hen-pecked as usual, but also acting worried and wary. At first, I thought the other two were in the nesting box, but no. Coop & nesting box were empty. It was only then that I noticed , in one corner of the enclosure . . . a pile of feathers and a corpse: Mauricette. No visible signs of injury, just dead, on her side. On further inspections, in another corner of the enclosure, I found a different pile of feathers
but no corpse. That would have been Florence (missing, presumed dead).
We took Gibbs out in the orchard, where he sniffed and followed a scent trail which stopped at the boundaries of the orchard and a neighbour’s garden. We even had Moka, a neighbour’s labrador) out in the orchard, who sniffed and followed the exact same scent trail as Gibbs. There were more Florence feathers the other side of the fence . . . so with our Sherlock Holmes cap on (plus the husband googling fox hunting habits) we deduce that deaths were caused by a fox even though it occured in broad daylight.
We’d been lucky up until now. We’ve lived here for 7 years, and kept hens for 6 years. This is the first time hens have fallen prey to a predator. Anyway . . . Ruby, as I say, was completely shell-shocked yesterday, poor thing. Yesterday evening, we moved her back to the hen coop in the veggie garden. And I got on the phone to our usual hen breeder.
This morning we went and collected 3 new laying hens: a black & tan, a red hen, and a French blue. I’ll show you photos as soon as they’re settled in and brave enough to leave the coop. In the meantime, Ruby is even more worried, because of the 3 strange birds in the coop.
Saying that, it didn’t stop her laying an egg in the nesting box earlier today! I hope she gets on well with the new hens and that her plumage eventually grows back to its former glory.