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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.


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.

Twit­ter: @her­mitcrabeggs

Happy that new chicks have ar­rived

Eggs pip­ping her­ald new begin­ning

Chicks hatch

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

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