The other day my neighbour knocked excitedly on our front door. She and the kids had brought me round the local paper. They wanted to show me a fantastic story in it about how, against all odds, a humble chicken triumphed over a cruel fox. Over in Langdon Hills near Basildon, a cockerel by the wonderful name of Dude has found fame by pecking a fox to death. Michelle Cordell, Dude’s owner, says she thinks that the fox got into the run, was knocked out after a table fell on it and then Dude finished him off.
Like many cockerels, Dude is fiercely protective of his girls and this time he went the extra mile. I particularly loved this quote from Michelle in the paper. “I reared Dude from a tiny little chick and now he’s a murderer.” I like to think of him as more of a Clint Eastwood figure, one cockerel who dares to stand up and be counted. The Cockerel with No Name…(well, except Dude)… “Never mind Star Wars,” said my neighbour’s son. “What about hen wars?” Harry Wallop at the Telegraph joked on his Twitter feed that he awaits the Aardman docudrama of the story. What a great idea. The story has gone onto feature in the national newspapers, which just goes to show how popular chicken keeping has become in the UK.
Being as our own neighbourhood has been terrorised by a grizzly fox as big as a Labrador, my neighbour, who also keeps chickens, and I were particularly inspired by this story. We have been living in fear of letting our hens out at all – especially as the fox comes during the day and is so huge. Besides our own loss, he has done for another neighbour’s pet duck and taken a bite out of another. Every inch of our Eglu run is covered in ratchets and cable ties now and the perimeter reinforced with grow bags and heavy plant pots. Friends have suggested various ways of ‘dealing’ with the fox. One mate kindly offered to come and shoot it, but I don’t want to get him into trouble. It’s legal to shoot a fox on farmland but not in your back garden and I’m not sure all our neighbours would turn a blind eye.
I even rang up a local pest control outfit which quoted £100 plus VAT to set a humane trap and then £75 plus VAT to remove the fox afterwards. But it’s hardly economical when, as my neighbour pointed out, another fox will simply take its place. The weirdest suggestion by another pal, particularly experienced in dealing with foxes, was to tie a chicken carcass to my foot and lie in wait in the back garden (presumably at night and with an air rifle). Apparently, if you fall asleep, the fox tugging on the string will wake you up in time to deal with it. But I wasn’t particularly up for that in this weather.
My friend with the shotgun assured me that the best idea was to beef up our defences and not let the girls out until the danger has passed. So we’re hoping that will be enough and that the fox will eventually stop coming round. Here’s keeping our fingers crossed. Meanwhile, we are wondering if Dude the Magnificent is for hire. Michelle, if you’re reading this, get in touch – we need your help!
Heard of any other weird and wonderful ways to deal with problem foxes? Think they are cuddly and don’t deserve all the negative publicity? Or got any great nicknames for Dude the Cockerel? Leave a message and let me know.
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