Why I took food out of Mr Hayley’s mouth to feed a fox – Hayley Matthews

Foxes aren't fussy eaters but they'll enjoy treats like unsalted peanuts and cheese. Picture: PA
Foxes aren't fussy eaters but they'll enjoy treats like unsalted peanuts and cheese. Picture: PA
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Hayley Matthews has always been a feeder – and she doesn’t discriminate between her fellow humans and animals.

I’m going to be in trouble in the morning as I’ve just dished out Mr Hayley’s chicken thighs to Mr Fox, who visited our garden in the middle of the night. And yes, he’ll realise when he reads this where they’ve gone. Oops.

I only got up as my restless legs were driving me crazy and despite being tempted to take a rolling pin to my jumpy limbs, I decided drinking some water would be a more sensible choice so off to the kitchen I stumbled with eyes half-shut.

I got to the sink and there he was – just like a wee rabbit caught in the headlights. I instantly felt terrible as I’d obviously disturbed the poor soul on a scavenging hunt for his breakfast and before I could do anything he dashed off towards the garden bushes. My instant urge was to turn to the fridge in a desperate attempt to find a supper for him.

“Ah Kenny’s chicken thighs will be perfect,” I thought to myself, so out the back door they all went, only to be sniffed out by the neighbour’s cat (who is desperately trying to move in with us but we’re at maximum capacity with two adults, two kids and three cats already).

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The cat continued to sniff out the chicken as I watched on helpless because any encouragement from me calling on Mr Fox in my jammies at 4am would only have served as more disruption. So I watched from the back of the kitchen in the hope that Mr Fox would return.

As I stood there I wondered why was I so desperate to feed the foxes? Why do I not like the thought of another being suffering hunger?

All I know is that I’m a feeder and always have been. I’m the one who when you come round for tea, I’ll send you home wanting to undo your top button. Sharing food is important to me and not just with my fellow humans, but with all beings because after all, it’s not just us humans who need fuel to survive and we have plenty for the sharing so let’s not be greedy. I feel sorry for the wildlife because we’ve taken over much of their green space in the city. So yes, I’ll be in big trouble when Kenny realises the Fox has had his peanut-coated chicken thighs, but after many years he’s probably come to expect it – I hope.

Feeding the wildlife in the garden fills me with joy and it’s not just the foxes; birds and hedgehogs as well as the odd badger (if you’re lucky) can enjoy some snacks and we can do it responsibly we don’t upset the neighbours.

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Apparently, foxes are by no means fussy and have one of the broadest diets out of all our wild animals. They love to catch rabbits, birds, earthworms and enjoy a bit of chicken too. They also love berries and fruit and you’ll find the urban foxes hunting pigeons and rats as well as munching on our leftovers.

I’ve looked into it a lot and if you want to, the best way to feed foxes in your garden is to try to leave out meat protein, cooked or raw meat, tinned dog food, or specially-formulated fox food (Wild Things make some but I haven’t tried it yet as I fear Kenny “The Banker” will freak if I start adding fox food to our weekly shop). The foxes will also be pleased with treats like unsalted peanuts and cheese.

These gentle animals are so close to our pet dogs and I’m sure if you saw a golden retriever in your garden in the middle of the night you’d be inviting him in for a chicken thigh too. Just don’t tell Kenny.