Saturday, 17 May 2008

No mercy

Today has been a real trial.

One of those days where you realise that smallholding really is a way of life, you cannot decide once you start to just stop. You cant wake up one morning and decide that's it, not doing it anymore. So today, despite the weather, we have been working outside doing heavy dirty jobs, and while we worked it was obvious the fox had struck again.

As Tracey and I cleaned the floor mats for the stable we could see Terry the Turkey on patrol around the perimeter fence. He does this all day everyday making the funny gobble gobble sound and puffing himself up displaying how big he is. Today he looked different, it might sound odd but the colour had gone from his face, he looked scared. In fact he looked so different he looked like one of the females. Tracey found a clump of brown feathers by the greenhouse, not a good sign. I climbed the bank and checked the nest site under the tree. The nest was empty, no eggs and a trail of feathers through the brambles down to the fence of the pigs sty where the flora was all flattened. From the signs the fox came in from the hill, crossed the garden and killed the turkey by the greenhouse and pig sty. It then dragged the twenty pound bird over the vegetable garden, over the lane and across the field opposite. What made matters worse was it then must have come back and killed the only remaining female turkey in the barn and taking that one the same way. We searched around for ages hoping to find the second turkey nesting somewhere, and Terry has been patrolling calling all day but no response.

This means out of the four turkeys we bought last September only the male remains, the rest have fed the foxes. We are beginning to question the free range aspect of the smallholding, or whether keeping poultry is viable. We cannot afford these type of losses. Its the time of year that foxes have cubs so the predation rate does up but we are losing a bird a day at least. Given that we found three fox trails in the snow last November we could have anything up to fifteen cubs that need feeding in the wood and hills around Rock HQ. As we are the first smallholding off the hill we are a prime target, and as the gorse bushes and bracken provide excellent cover they can move around with impunity during daylight hours when we are away.

Our neighbour, The Oracle, told us the other week that he had seen foxes sitting in the hedge watching the sheep giving birth and running out and taking the new born lamb as it lay on the ground. A farmer from over the ridge told us he had lost over twenty lambs to foxes.

It seems the local foxes view us as a specialist takeaway where they can supplement their rabbit diet with turkey, duck, and chicken. We had a round up when we discovered the missing turkeys and found that since Thursday we have lost a Muscovy Duck, two hens and two turkeys.

Now I would shoot the fox if I saw it, but only having one good arm limits my ability to aim properly. Tracey is not keen on me arming myself to the teeth and keeping vigil to shoot the murderous intruder given what happened last time.

I had borrowed a gun and sat waiting for Foxy Loxy on the top of Oak Bank, the killing ground baited with a couple of dead rabbits shot earlier. After a few hours of watching and waiting Foxy Loxy obviously had other dinner plans so I collected the rabbits and I made my way back down the hill to the cottage. I went up to our bedroom and very quietly laid the gun on the bed and started to take my camouflage gear off. I had been in the Army so I am quite used to handling guns, so a loaded gun on the bed didn't cause me any concerns as the safety catch was on.

I struggled out of my hunting gear.

As I did so I heard Foxy outside the cottage. I looked out of the window and could see him sat in the lane looking up at the bedroom window, I swear he was laughing at me. I reached for the gun.

As my hand touched it there was what can only be described as a very loud bang and bits flew off the bedside cupboard. Tracey sat bolt upright, my attempt to go to bed quietly was not working out as planned. Considering I had just shot some of her favorite bedroom furniture she took it very calmly. She didn't tell me off but I'm not allowed to handle loaded guns in the house. I cant anyway at the moment and Tracey has taken on the role of Marksperson. Quite often we stand too in the bedroom and fire a couple of volleys off to frighten off the fox. But as the vermin are now attacking in the day light other options having to be taken up.

The fox traps are on order.

These contraptions let the fox in to get the bait, I have several pheasants in the freezer earmarked as bait, but don't let it out again. I will then, if we catch one, shoot it. The way I feel about the fox at the moment I am likely to shoot it, skin it, mince it up and feed it to the poultry, but I shall probably just shoot it. There will be no mercy shown to the fox on my watch.

The day wore on, somehow these slabs of rubber had to be moved.Thankfully Tom and Beth were on hand to assist moving the heavy duty rubber mats from the barn and up to the stable. They weighed a ton and it was a real team effort to move them the 100 yards uphill to be laid on the floor of the boys new home. The boys showed their appreciation by taking dumps over them.

The tack room was next and we kitted it out with things to hang the reins and stuff, and a saddle rack. Its safe to say now the stable is completed, we are exhausted from the effort but its been worth it. Its just the dairy that wants kitting out now. Despite our tiredness several more little jobs got ticked off, the gate to the garden got a new catch, the onion sets were finally planted, the potatoes were covered with Williams finest pooh and the usual jobs were done.

As I fed the sheep I saw one of the Black Rocks eating something in the goat house, it turned out to be an egg laid by one of the Pekin Ducks. I had been wondering when the Pekins would start to lay, even watched them build a nest in the corner of the duck house, now it was clear why we were not getting any eggs. The Black Rock is now slowly cooking in the rayburn.

The fox isnt the only one partial to chicken at Rock HQ.


jane smith said...

I've been reading your blog since you left the link on the QQ board and I find it very strange to be let into your world this way. Having a small-holding must be such an interesting thing to write about and I even found myself worrying about your poultry last night when I went to bed but I'm also very concerned for Katy and Daffodil. Aren't they in danger too? I hope you have some luck getting rid of the foxes but I think trapping and shooting them is the only way forward. I await the next instalment with anticipation. rnr

Tony said...


I did think it was you RnR given the name. Thank you for taking the time to read what we are up to at Rock HQ, we now have a readership in 26 countries! Katy and Daffodil were allowed to sleep in the conservatory last night, Daffodil had an attack of the shivers following some medication so just to be on the safe side they slept on the sofa. They are very well this morning and obviously enjoyed themselves. Tracey is getting their breakfasts while I get the mop!
A smallholding is a dream come true, we love it here and I hope you carry on reading about the characters we share our lives with. Trevor Shetland is on Facebook but he doesnt have many friends yet!