MY LIFE LAY IN RUINS
Thursday 11th January As I descended the steps to the field that afternoon I noted the distinct lack of noise and spotted a chicken squatted motionless near the compound gate. As my eyes rose from the ground an apocalyptic scene came into view.
Body after body lay strewn about the field, decapitated heads and piles of feathers everywhere.
We’d had another fox visit, only this time it was worse than ever. Twenty-six birds killed – not a single one taken.
At first I was numb with disbelief at the scale. As I worked my way round counting and identifying the casualties it was the headless body of my beloved Muscovy duck, Oops, that finally caused the tears to flow.
I dropped to the cold, muddy floor clutching her lifeless body and wept. I wept for the loss of their lives, for my own failure to make sure they were fully protected and for the loss of everything poultry-keeping had brought us. There was no way we could rebuild from this – all the breeding lines, champion layers, juveniles, the olive-egg project – all gone
Once again I wept; only this time it wasn’t because of the gut-wrenching ache of loss but instead for the relief and gratefulness I felt.
in a frenzied instant. How could I even begin to start over? The time, money, and effort required, along with the current heartache meant this was surely it for us. Hermit Crab Eggs was finished.
After clearing up through the twilight and on into the dark, with eerily silent sheds and bloodied feathers fluttering in the wind, I began to document the aftermath and shared the details and my feelings about the event on Twitter. If sharing this served as a reminder to even one poultry keeper about livestock security then it wasn’t entirely in vain.
Within minutes I had responses offering condolences and birds. By the end of the evening I’d had countless offers of money, breeding stock and hatching eggs. At first I didn’t want to accept the help believing that it was my mistake, that there are more worthwhile causes out there needing money than our little enterprise. Surely we didn’t deserve the attention or even warrant a moment’s thought in anyone’s busy lives? However, as the messages and offers continued to pour in I realised it would be churlish and disrespectful to continue declining help. I accepted and joyously realised that there was hope for us yet. People did care about what we do and really wanted to see us rebuild from this disaster. Maybe, just maybe we could be back in the
game for next year and build on the 477 awards so far.
EIGHT WEEKS LATER
With cash donations from as far afield as America, birds given to me from the Forest of Dean, Tiverton, Bath and Gloucester, and eggs coming in from Peterborough, Sussex, Aberdeen and Oxford things were looking so much better.
There was life, noise and colour once again to the (now better protected) fields. The incubators hummed away gently. The young ducks that survived the attack began to lay. I dared to believe that maybe we could actually still be involved in the fancy this year.
Happy that new chicks have arrived
Eggs pipping herald new beginning
Hermit Crab Eggs back in business
INSET: A paw print from the fox that killed the chickens ABOVE: Sentry duty
The Beast from the East blew in to add to the troubles