Fox guards henhouse; keeps eggs warm

Now here’s a fox-guarding-the-henhouse story with a happy ending, or at least nobody got hurt. Of course, it happened in England. They must have more sophisticated and intelligent foxes there.

fox in henhouse.pngThis lovely creature turned up in the middle of the day at the Flying Bull Primary School in Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK. (They also have more imaginative names for their schools, but that’s another story.) He was found dozing in the school chicken coop just curled up and keeping the eggs warm. The chickens were out running about at the time and apparently were not aware of the intrusion.

The story might have had a less happy ending, but before the chickens came home to roost, some students discovered Mr. Fox when they went to check for eggs. They rushed back and reported his presence to Jane France, the school office manager, who snapped a few beauty shots before another school employee chased the uninvited guest out of the schoolyard.

We guess British schools don’t have armed guards on duty, so no harm done to the chickens, the fox or the eggs as far as anyone can tell.

We were not so lucky with predators earlier this spring. We came home just a little bit late to close the chicken coop one night a few weeks ago and discovered that a raccoon had gotten one of our Lavender Orpington hens. The raccoon hadn’t broken into the coop. The loss resulted from operator error – an open door - as is usually the case when we lose a bird. But that just made us feel worse about it.

The dogs let us know that the culprit was hidden under the hay pile. They barked and growled their fiercest, but the hay pile contains several tons of hay for our horses, and we didn’t have the desire or energy to move 100 bales just to flush out the raccoon. So we put out a live trap to catch it. We tried various kinds of bait over a couple of weeks, but with no success. Fortunately, there were no more fatalities, either.

We had pretty much given up the chance of catching it, when we went to feed the chickens one evening and our dog Joe started just going crazy around the coop. We noticed that the waterer was overturned and the feed bucket was moved. A quick look inside the coop revealed not one, but two raccoons, one in a nest box and one curled up on a roost. We’re not sure how they ended up in the roosting house. They had either gone inside to hunt for eggs while the chickens were out and about, or maybe they were surprised while scouting around the coop and Joe had chased them inside. In either case, we now had two raccoons in our henhouse.

The female was just about as cute as this fox, but we weren’t about to let these critters loose around our shed where they could prey on our hens again. If you want to hear all the details of our struggle with the raccoons, you can ask us when you’re in the store next. The short version is that we were able to trap one in a dog crate and release her into a wildlife area far from anyone’s chicken coop. The male didn’t survive his coop experience.

The moral of this story is that, as much as we love cute foxes and raccoons and want them to live happy lives, not every encounter with the wild world end happily – for the wildlife, for the chickens or for us.