Musings of Linda McDonald-Brown

Reynard is at it again, I’m sure of it. For the past week, nearly every night we have counted our hens and ducks into bed, there has been one fewer.

And to be honest I’m baffled as to how they are being taken. Admittedly my hens and ducks are free range during the day, but they tend to stay in an enclosed area close to the house, which is not only overlooked by quite a few windows but within spitting distance of my office. Yet I never hear a commotion, or notice the hens looking distressed and huddled together as they often do when faced with danger.

Whatever is taking them is being very sneaky indeed and we need to get to the bottom of it before we lose the lot.

Foxes have been in the news rather a lot lately, due to the awful case of the baby whose finger was bitten off by a fox.

Last year we were staying at a B&B on the outskirts of London on our way down to Dover and counted no fewer than 12 foxes meandering through the garden, crossing the road or even – in one case – brazenly playing a game of tag with one another underneath a window.

You would be unlikely to see this many in the countryside in a whole year, never mind in one night.

I don’t know what the answer is to bringing urban foxes under control, but I do know that trapping and then re-homing them in the countryside, as animal charities are prone to do, is definitely not the answer.

I also don’t understand why they feel the need to do this. We have enough problems with the ones we have and certainly don’t need skinny, mange-ridden outsiders brought in to boost the numbers.

I say if the RSPCA or whoever traps them, then they ought to cull them and work towards getting rid of the problem, not passing it onto someone else.

We have had two births this week. Dennis, so named as we first thought she was a boy, has given birth to four kittens and Sjaan, one of the Meishans brought over from Holland, has had two piglets. Although two piglets is disappointing, at least this time she gave birth and not re-absorb all the embryos as was the case we believe last time when she was pregnant.

Pigs quite often have stillbirths or re-absorb embryos, especially if they have been subjected to stress or radical changes in their routine. Embryos are not embedded until day nine of gestation and at that stage they can migrate from one horn (side of the uterus, and pigs have two horns) to the other.

As long as there are four embryos in place, and both horns are occupied, pregnancy will continue beyond 10 days, otherwise it terminates. Litters of four or fewer are usually suggestive of embryonic death between 12 and 30 days of gestation which is, in all probability, the likely cause behind Sjaan’s small litter.