The Hen-pire Strikes Back

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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6 Responses to The Hen-pire Strikes Back

  1. Bill says:

    piper darling, . . . have yer tried the electric fence yet. we use a single strand fers cattle, a double fers pigs, & standandard fine guage chicken mesh fers foxes & other vermin, incuding stoats, weasels & pole-cats. Yer will need standard steel, or even timber stakes, normaly steel are best for portable fences. Yer will also need an adequate no. of insulators ter fit the wire on the stakes, clamp style fers steel stakes, nail/screw type fers timber. Any shop on the local livestock market, or any other agricultural supply have most kit in stock. Yer can buy a standard 6v operating system, complete with small 6v battery, warning lamp, hand switch, pulsation unit & case, all from the agricultural supply. Yer need ter keep the fence in clear straight lines if possible, & measure the length of material as accurate as possible before yer shopping trip. 6v is the maximum legal power fers the job.Or yer could build yer own system, with all spare parts, including battery, from a moped/scooter supply. Yer will also need a suitable home battery charger, complete with second battery. The net should be close enough ter the ground ter stop the pole-cats etc, but should not touch the ground. It should also be kept taught. The wily Reynard, or his spouse, will attemp ter dig under the fence, but will soon catch their snout, or neck on the fence. The air will turn briefly blue, & yer will see \’em dissappear with their tail twixt the legs. After the 2nd, or 3rd attempt, they will give up, & try their luck with the neighbours.The poultry, or any other livestock, including yer own dogs, will also curse if they catch \’emselves, but will soon learn. No harm done. Hence the 6v maximum legal limit. The battery should be changed every month, & recharged, in order ter maintain maximum effect. Yer could buy, & hang warning signs on the fence, fers elderly & infirm, but it is not compulsory.

  2. Bill says:

    p.s. . . . instead of changing the battery, it may be possible ter lay a 6v cable from the nearest charger on a safe dry mains, ter the battery in use, which protects from any power cut, otherwise the entire fence runs on fresh 6v \’leccy direct from the charger. The batery will have so little active use, it will last fersever. The battery is compulsory by law, yer cannot connect the fence direct from the charger, on \’elfandsafety.

  3. piper says:

    Hello Bill. Thanks for that. Yes, I mentioned your tip about the electric fencing to DJ – his Dad had also suggested something along similar lines. We\’re a bit worried the cat would electrocute himself along with the fox, though, as he\’s not the brightest of animals, bless him.

  4. Bill says:

    Hi there piper, . . . no risk to any form of livestock, not even Reynard. If the cat does investigate, which is more than likely, the air will simply turn blue fer at least a full minute, & the mood will turn foul fers at least an hour. Cats are not so dumb, once should be enough. Just stick ter the legal max of 6volts, & do not connect direct ter the charger, even a half dead battery is legal, but will only transmit half the voltage (3v). Best a new, unused battery, if permanently connected ter the live charger, it will last fersever. It will also protect against power cuts. Yer may need 12v ter keep the Mother in Law out!

  5. Piper says:

    Thanks Bill – I\’ll bear in mind your warning about the Mother in Law!

  6. Fran says:

    Have you tried the ultrasonic fox deterrent from Foxolutions? I frequent a rabbit forum and I know people who have found it highly effective against foxes with respect to protecting their rabbits. I know it\’s 60 pounds, but once bought should last for years.

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