This year I decided to make a scarecrow. We lost our little Betsy dog last year – she was always with me when I was in the garden and I was feeling a bit lonely. I thought a scarecrow might offer some company – at least I wouldn’t be talking to myself! I was quite pleased with the result – an old mop was perfect to start with and, at first, he looked so real that he kept making me jump.
I’ve called him Humphrey – and, amazingly, he works! I usually have to cover my baby peas with fleece to stop the pigeons eating them but Humphrey has proved to be an excellent deterrent. The peas are bigger now and protected by privet twigs so I have moved Humphrey to the strawberry bed to stop the blackbirds pinching my strawberries. So far it seems to be working. But, strictly speaking, Humphrey is a scare-pigeon or a scare-blackblackbird!
It wasn’t the magpies, it was a crow eating the hen eggs – I found it in the hen house, shut the door so it was trapped – and John came and shot it with the garden gun. I inherited this garden gun from my Dad, it is ideal for shooting at close range and you can use it in confined spaces as it doesn’t blow a hole in the wall! You still need a shotgun licence for it.
Anyway, we put the dead crow on the hen-house roof and it does seem to have worked keeping other crows away as I’ve not had any trouble since. Magpies are still around and I did find a dead one in the duck pond and put that on the roof alongside the crow. That didn’t however, keep the magpies away. The crow is still there but the magpie has gone – maybe they are more palatable than crows! So, fingers crossed our chukkies are safe from egg-thieves.
Hens use the pen for sleeping in and as a nest box for laying their eggs
In the meantime, we have been hen-sitting – some friends have gone to Cuba and we’re looking after their hens for two weeks. They’ve settled in well in the front garden with Cocky Rocky, they lay lovely big eggs but they have voracious appetites, they eat much more than my smaller hens. They are also very tame and come when you call them.
Magpies were getting into the hen-house and eating the eggs – I finally outwitted them with a fly curtain combination and by filling in all the gaps under the eaves with wire netting.
I searched on the internet but all I found were lots of tales of woe with people having the same problem. The general advice seemed to be: “Shoot the b—ers”, but then of course you have to find someone with a gun who will sit there for ages and try and catch them unawares!
Hens of course cluck very loudly every time they have laid an egg – which is like a dinner gong to the magpies! Every day I’d try something new, find another gap under the roof and block it with wire netting, tried using the pop-hole again in the hope the magpies would not find it – all to no avail. Then I finally went and bought this very pretty fly-curtain (used to keep the flies out but it works for magpies too). And it works! I thought it might stop the hens and ducks too but it really doesn’t bother them – they trot through quite happily but the magpies don’t like it at all.
This morning I went into the hen house and a pigeon flew at me – didn’t go through the fly curtain though, so there was a lot of frantic fluttering until I hid outside and held the fly curtain aside so it could fly out. Goodness knows how it got in and I do hope the magpies weren’t watching!
The hens got really upset and kept finding new places to lay their eggs but the magpies nearly always found them. I don’t mind the wild birds eating the food I put out for the hens but taking the eggs is just not on. Evidently jackdaws are just as bad. If you have trouble with crows a dead crow hung nearby will stop them but I’m told this doesn’t work with jackdaws or magpies. Shooting them is of course the best option because it stops them taking the wild birds’ eggs – and they take young birds too.
So if you think one of your hens might be eating the eggs it’s highly unlikely- and it’s almost bound to be one of the Corvidae family which includes crows, magpies and jackdaws – so try a fly curtain first.