Alexandra's Animals: An Unwelcome Visitor
PUBLISHED: 15:40 31 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:13 20 February 2013
Alexandra Bastedo, actress and custodian of the ABC Animal Sanctuary, near Pulborough, tells us about what happened when a predator scaled her fence
It wasnt exactly a shock, it was total disbelief. Nine years ago we had built an impenetrable fortress round the orchard for our rescued birds. Battered battery hens, feather-pecked free-range chickens, disabled ducks, geese with deformed beaks, a one-legged peacock all had lived undisturbed in their poultry paradise.
It had been erected with expert advice and the tennis court- type fencing went 18 inches into the ground and was 12 feet high. No badger or fox would be able to breach that. There had been the odd unforeseen murder by malicious minks who in turn were dispensed with by our cats as they exited the compound, but nothing like this. This day was different it was carnage. Every chicken and turkey in the enclosure lay dead while the few remaining ducks stayed glued to the geese who had protected them. Of the peacocks there was no sign. In their wisdom, or terror, they had flown off and were later recouped from neighbouring fields.
As I stood looking at the dead bodies of our friendly chickens I was outraged what beast had managed to destroy their paradise? Was it the puma we had heard of? It couldnt be a fox, after all the enclosure had stood for nine years without Mr. Reynard intruding. All the volunteers were as stupefied as I was until one stumbled across the incontrovertible proof in the shape of an unmistakable dark, berry-filled fox dropping. A young fox had scaled the 12 foot fence and embarked on its murderous rampage.
I have to say I am ambivalent about foxes but I admit my ambivalence was called into question that morning. People eat chickens, turkeys and ducks and foxes have to eat too dont they? In the winter I had thrown our dogs Bonios to the sad starving fox sitting outside the back door and we had loved watching the cubs in the spring gamboling in the garden in the knowledge that our birds were safe in their orchard fortress.
I would even defend fox behaviour, as it is known that they will come back for the birds they have killed if they can and bury them in the earth like a larder, saving them for later.
I had always felt it was up to us to keep a step ahead of the very intelligent Mr. Fox. The enclosure is now swathed in electric fencing and if he gets through our latest fortifications I will happily trap him and transport him to the Outer Hebrides myself!
The other animals all survived the night. Of the 23 cats we took in from the RSPCA all but six have gone to lovely new homes but there are more coming in all the time, so the rehoming and the fundraising has to continue. We will be holding some celebrity evenings to be announced on the website: and our Christmas Fayre is at the West Chiltington Village Hall on 3 December between 12 and 3pm. Santa Claus and his animals will be in attendance. Our Save Charlie the Shetland fund has only raised 75 and 3000 is needed for the operation to save his life. He is only nine and so gentle it will be heart-breaking if we have to say goodbye to him prematurely. And finally Milly and Molly, our lovely wild boars, have gone to their new woodland home making space for three micro pigs to come to the sanctuary. Their owners (who have emigrated) were sold them as micro pigs but they are now a great deal larger and heavier than their owners were led to believe they would be. They are too big for the hut we had prepared for them and the one they are now in is in a state of disrepair. If anyone has any unwanted sheds please let us know.
To contact the sanctuary, call 07967 046068 or 07770 667319 or write to
P.O.Box 2195, Pulborough, RH20 2XB