The frost-covered fields and frozen ponds, make it hard for the animals to find food and drinking water. The children have been involved in feeding the livestock and wildlife throughout the cold months and have observed how nature battens down the hatches and lays dormant.
On our rounds this morning, we discover to our dismay that one of our miniature (bantam) chickens lies dead under a bush. We call the children over and discuss what may have happened. One little boy had noticed that the rest of the flock didn’t allow this one near the feeding tray. He suggests that “the others didn’t let her eat and so she died”. Blunt, but probably not far from the truth.
Our dilemma now is what to do with the chicken. We have had close encounters in the past when the fox has managed to grab a few hens. We have discussed precautionary measures such as fencing and hatches. We also discuss that it is difficult for the fox to find adequate food for itself and its young.
Eventually we decide this chicken will be dinner for Mr. Fox. We venture off to the small wooded area making a solemn procession lead by a rubber glove-clad adult carrying the bird. One little girl, however, won’t budge; refusing to go anywhere near the wood for fear of coming across the fox. This is a good opportunity to explain that foxes are nocturnal animals. They sleep during the day and only come out at night, and, anyway, the foxes are more afraid of us than we are of them. She follows reluctantly, not entirely convinced.
As soon as we enter the thicket, the going gets rougher and we are forced into single file. One little boy runs along ahead saying “I’ll find the dining room”. He finds a small clearing where the light streams through from between the pine trees - a very good dining room indeed. “Here it is!” he exclaims and everyone agrees.
We leave the woods and venture back out into the frosty sunlight. It feels like we’ve done the right thing and that we learnt something along the way.