Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

Tricksy Wiley Foes

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What could I be talking about? No, its not Oscar the dog on the hunt for table scraps in the Garden Room of our lovely Café. Nor is it one of the livestock team pinching yet another tea bag from the interns.

I am talking about foxes. Tricksy, wiley, foxes. Recently, around 80 of our laying chickens were, literally, massacred (there simply isn’t a better word for it) by a single nasty red coated beasty. Now, I am not one to criticise the instincts of a predatory animal. One it would be hypocritical (just ask my boyfriend) and two, a fox has got to eat, and a chicken makes a tasty meal.

Unfortunately, fox behaviour does lean towards the unnecessarily blood thirsty at time. 79 of these chickens were simply killed. Only one was taken. The rest, left behind as a macabre gift for our livestock team to discover in the morning.

This behaviour, described as ‘surplus killing’, only happens in un natural situations such as hen houses. Foxes naturally kill more than they can eat in one sitting if possible, so that they can bury the rest for later. If the prey cannot escape however, this ‘surplus killing’ takes place. Basically its just the hunting instinct gone into overdrive, the fox taking advantage of having so much prey available. This is not the fox killing for pleasure, just a fox being a fox, so please don’t think that one of our top mammalian predator is a blood crazed lunatic.

They are actually quite shy animals in the countryside. Young foxes will often be more eager to approach humans because they are naturally more curious, just like any young pup. Foxes are solitary by nature, but are becoming more personable in urban areas as many friendly households like to feed their neighbourhood fox. This is a good thing, whilst foxes are not endangered in this country, they are nonetheless a very beautiful and charming wildlife member. Few people remember their first encounter with a fox without a smile on their face. Mine personally was pretty dramatic; this fox was huge! It was like walking upon a scarlet German shepherd! And his eyes; huge yellow orbs that just stared at you, calm as day, no fear what so ever. He was a gorgeous animal, and I haven’t seen another fox as impressive.

Hopefully the Church Farm fox won’t decide to go into the chicken coup again; as a farm, we have to protect our livestock which doesn’t have a happy ending for the fox. Still, with around 300,000 foxes in rural Britain today, I am sure that if its not the same fox, another will soon show up.


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