Talk to anyone about keeping poultry and you will get a familiar sad tale. These stories (and I have heard quite a few now) follow the same course and it is only the details that differ. Let me give you the general story, although you almost certainly know it already. The alternative points of detail have been put into brackets as an indication of how individual accounts vary one from the other, but the basic story is ALWAYS the same.

Here´s how it goes:

“Once I used to keep a load of (hens/ducks/geese or some combination thereof). Then one night a (fox/wild dog/leopard/alligator/boa constrictor) broke into the enclosure AND KILLED EVERY GODDAM SINGLE ONE OF THEM.”

I heard this from a gardener next door on Tuesday morning and from my own brother only last week and it has happened to me also. Twice. Every keeper of poultry seems to have had this happen to them at some point as far as I can see. You can hear it in their voices that this has saddened them, even if these events took place some time in the past.

My personal version of this tragic tale would take the same standard form described above. For me it was hens that were killed and a campo dog that killed them.

Ecologists recognise that each species occupies a unique niche in ecosystems. They go as far as to unroll a long list of words that describe individual niches and include the trophic level of the species – where it fits into the food chain. In many cases this can be, as you might imagine, a very complex business.

In the economy of nature the role of the hen however is extremely easy to pin down. Stated simply, hens are simply there to provide a substantial and tasty nighttime snack for just about any predator that feels a little peckish. And, if they happen to avoid this fate, their general role is to peck at everything. That, and to lay eggs.

My next door neighbours are getting on a bit and there hen keeping days are behind them. However they have a pretty nifty enclosure and so I asked if they would let me use it myself. It consists of a big “exercise yard” for the birds to wander around during the day and, within it, there is a separate enclosure (the “inner sanctum” I call it), with a hen house where the hens roost at night. Very kindly they said yes to my request to use the enclosure and so on Monday I went to collect my four “gallinas rojas” from the local supplier in Alhaurín el Grande. Those hens were barely in the exercise yard when they found a nice little hen-size hole in the chicken wire and each shuffled through into a dense 20 metre long hedge on the border of my neighbours´property. I had little choice but to go into the hedge myself and, on hands and knees, track down and grab each bird in turn before returning it to the secure inner sanctum and shut it in.

After all that jungle warfare came peace. The hens and I had a day and night of relative calm and the future looked rosy. I decided to leave them in the inner area which was more secure. Life was simple and happy and fulfilling for all of us. It was like we were all having a kind of honeymoon.

And then during the second night some campo dog (it is unlikely to have been a fox as we have very few around here) clawed its way under the fence and took every single one of them. Every one!

All that remained were a few scattered feathers and, in and among them, a heaving metropolis of ants.

Bastard campo dog.



These are not mine sadly. I have vowed to reinforce the inner sanctum with barbed wire, rocks, a moat, land mines and laser tripwires before I even consider replacing those hens.  Not before!