‘Wild’ life

I had bought 4 Wyandotte bantams late last summer – one cockerel and three females, and I settled them in an ark where, I thought, they would be safe from predators. They were happy little souls, going about their business as bantams do, and rewarding my ministrations with a reasonable supply of little white eggs and a feisty morning wake-up call from the handsome cock, and all was well. Until, that is, the day I went down the garden in the late afternoon to feed the menagerie and they did not come out of their house when I put some bread in their run. Mystified – far too early for them to have gone to bed for the night – I looked in their house and they were all dead. They looked as if they had been picked up and thrown.

I couldn’t understand it – it was possible that a rat could have got into their house, as there was a small gap around the edge of the roof, but nothing larger. And it was very unlikely that a rat would have killed something that size – let alone four of them in one go. It looked more like the sort of thing that a fox would do, except that they all had their heads – and there was no possible way that a fox could have got to them.

All was made clear a couple of days later. Candy, our Golden Retriever, has always been a ratter (she kind of mumbles them to death) and she was sniffing around the bottom of the ark so I tried to move it. A long, low, dark little thing came out into the run and then darted back under the house again. I moved it again, and this time it made a run for it into the open air – whereupon Candy promptly grabbed it and killed it and I had my chicken killer. It looked like a ferret – so I asked Rob, who keeps ferrets, to take a look. It was a mink!

I then found out that someone on Plough Lane had lost 12 chickens to a mink, and someone else had seen two in a ditch in Plough Lane in the summer. So my dead mink is not the only one, and I am now very careful about the new threat to my chickens. Apparently, rather like foxes, they kill for the pleasure of it, and they drink the blood of their victims. It does put a different twist on the words ‘garden wildlife’ – sometimes it is just a bit too wild out there.

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