Sunday, 8 November 2009

Reynard in town and country

My brother keeps a few chickens: delicious eggs for his family with a few sometimes coming our way. They're usually battery farm retirees. For a few pence, he buys them just in time to save them from a future as cat food. Soon enough they're laying happily, mooching around their hollow full of fruit trees. Chickens almost certainly can't disbelieve their luck, but if they could, these would.

Keeping a few chooks is also a great way to feel environmentally virtuous: not a scrap of food goes to waste. Everything gets eaten. In fact, one of my brother's fears is succumbing to paralysis in the chicken area whilst everyone's away and, still conscious, getting slowly and methodically pecked clean. A horrible way to go. You'd probably make the papers though.

However, for the immediate future, such nightmares are even less likely than normal. Reynard killed the lot, in the minutes between it getting dark and my brother getting back from his day job. From his description it sounded like the aftermath of a slasher movie. The violence was palpable: decapitation, evisceration, crushing and partial burial.

All this is comprehensible in that the fox's modus operandi is to kill the lot, take away as much as he can carry and bury what he can't in the hope that he'll be able to pick them up on his return. However, my brother said that viewing the scene, he could sense quite clearly the glee with which the fox tore things up. Vicious little blighters, foxes, and rightly so.

But there are plenty who want to hug them of course. We have foxes in inner-city Islington - a big blackish dog fox sits in our back garden sometimes. Here, one of their biggest problems is mange. This is a potentially deadly skin infestation that becomes entrenched due to stress. A typical cause of stress is over-population and the consequentially intense competition for territory and food.

A while ago T and I noticed, posted on a lamp-post around the corner from where we live, a leaflet advertising a homeopathic remedy for fox mange. It was light green, A4-size, detailed, single-spaced, and densely-written. There was the odd diagram.

I can recall just two key facts. First, each bottle cost £5 and the recommended course would require two or three bottles per fox. I thought this was a bit steep, for what is after all just water. Second, it was admitted that the biggest challenge was that of introducing your remedy into your fox.

It was recommended that the fox take it on board via foodstuffs. These should be left where the fox habitually fed. As our foxes enjoy picking apart anything left out for the dustbin men the night before collection, this would mean your best bet would be to leave your foodstuff - chicken drumsticks, say - on people's doorsteps, naturally having dabbed them with your £5-a-go water beforehand. I pictured middle-aged ladies gliding from doorway to doorway under the pale lamp-light, depositing select items from a Bargain Bucket as they go, only pausing to sprinkle.

When I related the contents of this leaflet to people back in the country they naturally thought I was taking the piss.


malty said...

As fox mangling is now, thanks to our lords and masters, off the menu, we have all become like Chuck Heston in that movie about ants. Burying various deceased mutts has become, for my neighbour and myself, an art form. Initially brought on by the anguished cries of Frau Malty "look that's Sally that the little bastard is carrying away" at first I thought she was talking about the postman who is indeed a short arsed illegitimate member of the communication workers union. It was the fox, having it away with the rigor mortisised, recently interred remains of one of Malty clan.
Ever since then we bury 'em deep, under large red sandstone slabs, fox proof, or so we think.

I see we aren't the only ones with problems, but naming him after a blood condition?

Guided a bloke up an alp once, as I tried desperately to revive him he muttered "oh, I have Raynaud's"
Excuse the play on words.

Gaw said...

Foxes are a curse everywhere it seems Malty. But I don't think the supposed end of hunting has anything to do with it as the hunts are killing at least as many as formerly.

I suspect it's to do with foxes becoming more and more like urban vermin even in quite rural areas (which also have bins, etc.) Any ideas as to how to carry out an urban hunt (ending in humane despatch, of course) would be useful. Scooters and riding pink hoodies?

Sean said...

Got one the other day on the way back from the fireworks at Chatsworth house, reversed back to back sure the f++k was dead.

What we need is a hunt to push the territorial boundaries back of the Fox. My three Westies are good at spotting them and letting me know, then the Purdy comes out and its not pretty, I usually leave the body to the crows and kites and it seems to send a warning to the other Foxes.

I absolutely hate them.

Sean said...

Thats Purdey with an E, not the new avenger.

malty said...

I suppose that we shouldn't complain too much about the wee beastie's, my Norwegian friends mother lives north of Boda, well north. In winter the local scavengers are polar bears, big problem, try reversing over one of those mothers.