Crofting Life

Tales of crofting in Aberdeenshire

Where there is livestock, there is dead stock

Keeping animals on a farm or croft can be the most rewarding thing in life. Gatekeeper, Gamekeeper, protector and pack leader all in one. Dealing with livestocks daily needs are, is, well daily. Routine brings calmness and calmness brings out the best in all breeds and I love them all!

Stress as in humans is a palatable and real emotion where it creates anxiety and worries and possibly why a growing number of people are now seeking a simpler life, or a life in the country were the illusive “balance” can be found. We are on this journey, so stick with me and maybe some things will resonate.

Fallen stock is a natural part of it all and no matter how hard we try and how much effort we all put in, sometimes shit happens…Its true, every detail and checklist of a livestock farmer has one thing that you cant control….random events! Now, everybody who knows me knows that I am no horse whisperer or Doctor Doolittle, but I love the animals I look after, so you can imagine the shock last week when we woke up to finding our chickens were attacked at night!

Morning feed and egg collecting is possibly the best start to any day, as we are used to our eggs hitting our plates 30 minutes after collecting them, and there is nothing better than eggs from your own birds. So on the fateful day, I immediately knew something happened. The role call done, one chicken looked like its feathers were charged with static and my poor duck had what looked like a bloody puncture wound on its neck!

Crofting v Crafty fox?

As everybody in the country knows, Mr & Mrs fox love chickens too, and it’s the prime serving on any given day for them, so directly after the attack, the foxes were prime suspects. Guilty and never to be forgiven, I was angry and upset. My chickens were traumatized and five were lost, but something was missing…but there were clues. Foxes are supremely predatory and once in with the chickens a blood lust takes over and its not unheard of for every single chicken to be killed in the frenzy. Foxes attack for food, but kill by heritage and instinct, so even the hardest working fox will not be able to carry off all the victims.

With 9 survivors, one duck with a puncture wound and she no longer quacks, and a chicken without an eye, who would not leave the coop, but there were no carcasses to be seen, anywhere. Five birds completely gone and only a scattering of feathers left to give a hazy picture of the drama that happened.

For a fox to remove 5 chickens and leave 9 alive doesn’t make sense, so are Mr & Mrs Fox now off the hook? Possibly, its does not fit their MO, it’s a strange scene and lack of any prints at all sets a puzzling setting. A frenzied attack, 5 missing birds, no prints, no carcasses, and no blood. You need to remember here that I am on my chicken learning journey, so the analyzing of chicken crime scenes was not in any of the books I read, just in case you were thinking I could look it up !!

This isn’t a whodunit, or a line up of the prime suspects, it’s a tale of no matter how much care you take in rearing livestock not everything is going to go by the playbook. The loss of any animal on the farm is hard and is usually met with a sigh of acceptance as its just crofting life. Just as not everything will get through the journey with you as you may have planned. In this case (yet unsolved) I was more upset that I failed. Not in a welfare kind of way as my chickens are (were) living the good-life like us, no, I failed in providing adequate security! Somehow, I was outsmarted and outmaneuvered by something that did not need to scale the high fences, but most likely came from above and plucked my little cluckers, the flying…buggers??

Not all loss comes in the manner you would expect and not all immediate conclusions and correct, so another day on the farm and another lesson in livestock life (and death). Now, and with all my chickens (and single duck survivor) moved to sheltered accommodation, higher fences and a bird canopy net, I’m content again. Happy that a curve ball lesson has been learned and maybe ready for any further attempted assault on my brood. The lone duck has her quacking voice back and is now part of the top team chicken crew. The chicken with the missing eye didn’t move from the coop for days, but eventually emerged into the new enclosure, with guess what, 2 eyes !  It was just a bad case of swelling…

I am sure that lessons in crofting life for this city girl are not yet over, but hopefully the next one is gentler….

Crofting happiest footnote

P.s just after completing this , I spotted a lone chicken on the edge of the moss, it was haggard and nervous and was now sporting a bald spot bigger than Prince Williams, but it wanted to be rescued!

It sat and waited until Gavin scooped it. It was missing for five days in the moss, a lone survivor? An escapee from the clutches of death? Who knows, but it’s home and it’s safe! 5 down, 1 recovered and all of a sudden, life’s odds look a little better since last weekend ….TBC