We spent hours watching the antics of our chickens in 2013. In spring, Dougie was in full swing with his new rotavator (interesting how outdoor kit is slowly being superseded by farming kit in our household!) they ran after him, in front of him, following him all through the vines and the veg patches, to the extent that some nearly met a very grisly end under the rotavator blades – that however, was not to be their demise!
They darted out in the mornings and followed Dougie everywhere, his own Harem – although his idea of having hoards of women flocking to him is perhaps slightly different to this rustic reality!
In summer, we sat under the trees in the back garden, while the boys cooled off in the paddling pool, where they would be pecking around. Then they’d take sudden notions to race across the grass chasing a small fly or butterfly and then see another one and sprint in completely the other direction, more often than not catching absolutely nothing. Bonkers!
In autumn, as the grapes in the vineyard began to mature, they even learnt to jump to reach the fruit hanging down in juicy bunches from the vines. For a couple of weeks we resorted to limiting their free range hours for fear of a decimated grape harvest (wine supply versus free range…there really is no choice)!
We looked into the chicken house at night when we shut the doors and instead of perching on their nice natural wooden perches that we had lovingly made for them, they would pile on top of each other in one corner like total idiots.
Then, one fateful cold and wintery December day, Dougie was back in the UK working for a while and I was here juggling work, children, a boiler that set itself on fire on a regular basis (a whole other story!), log burners and the rest of the daily duties, I came home from work after dark, having picked the boys up from their friend’s house, put the boys in bed and went to close the chickens doors and hatches.
As I got to the door and listened in to the hen house all seemed unnaturally quiet. There was none of the usual shuffling and rustling of feathers, or clucking and chattering I would normally hear. With fear and trepidation rising inside me I ran back to the house to get the head torch and then returned to the hen house. When I shined the light inside the sight in front of me made me freeze – plumes of black, brown and white feathers scattered around the floor of the hen house and five of my crazy chickens all lying together by the door as though they had cuddled up to each other for warmth and comfort in their last moments on this earth. Three had been taken away completely, and there was no sign of them anywhere when I looked in the daylight the following day. Poor things!
So, what had killed them? Naturally this was the main question. It could have been a fox? Or, a random stray dog? But no, none of the above. Instead, something much more exciting – we found some hair from the guilty animal at the entrance hole to the chicken house, caught in a piece of metal and yes…it was WOLF’S HAIR!
Just a couple of weeks earlier, following an unusually early dump of snow, we had been lucky enough to see a wolf trotting through our vines – undoubtedly taken by surprise with the snowfall it had been pushed lower down the mountain in search of food. Little did we know at the time, it had its beady eye on our chickens! One thing is for sure though, there are not many people that can say they have had a wolf to dinner in their back garden. And boy what a feast it had!
|The Abruzzo Wolf|