Heartbreak at Knights Templar School in Baldock as fox attack kills chickens kept as part of self-sufficiency project

Luke Mills, 17, by the chicken coop.

Luke Mills, 17, by the chicken coop. - Credit: Archant

A Baldock school that kept hens on-site as part of a strong self-sufficiency and recycling culture has been rocked by a midnight fox attack in which all the chickens were killed.

Luke Mills and Daniel Barnicott back when the first Knights Templar chickens arrived in 2013.

Luke Mills and Daniel Barnicott back when the first Knights Templar chickens arrived in 2013. - Credit: Archant

Knights Templar School sixth-former Luke Mills, 17, had raised the animals from chicks over more than three years as part of the school’s Energy and Sustainability Team, coming in over weekends and holidays to tend to them.

He told the Comet: “A fox got in during the early hours – maybe two foxes – and basically killed the five chickens in a very cruel way.

“The fox slid down one of the trees hanging over the coop and bit a piece of string that was holding the mesh roof, then slipped through that.

“It was out of human control. We did all we could to stop foxes – there’s no way we could have done it any other way with the resources and money we had available.”

The scene was discovered by school governor and retired teacher Chris Gough, who runs the EST – and both she and Luke have decided not to continue with the chickens.

Luke explained: “It’s come to an abrupt end under my leadership. We’ve both said we’re not going to carry on – it’s up to someone else.”

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The hens’ eggs had been sold to teachers to raise money for the wider EST initiative – in all of Luke’s time, starting in March 2013, there were 22 or 23 chickens.

And looking back on the whole experience, keen agriculturist Luke – who also keeps an allotment and works part-time at Tapps Garden Centre – told how it had taught him about the business side of farming.

“The way it ended was not the way we expected, but I had wanted to stop because of my A-level studies and Duke of Edinburgh programme work,” he said.

“I’ve learned a lot from it for sure. The biggest thing is the business side – covering costs and making sure things run smoothly from day to day. I’ve had help from the school’s head of business.

“I’m working towards studying a degree in agriculture, and eventually I want to go into farm management.”

Assistant headteacher Sara Levesley saluted Luke for his efforts, telling the Comet: “Luke is a very special kind of student. He’s dedicated to this kind of industry in particular, and this really is his niche. We’re all very proud of him.”

The chicken coop won a Green Flag award about a year ago. Other EST initiatives at Knights Templar have included paper recycling and ‘Knapple juice’ – pressed by Apple Cottage Cider in Baldock using Knights Templar apples.

Head Tim Litchfield is keen for the chicken coop, now seen as part of the school ethos, to carry on under new leadership.

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