Mr Cockerel, as I respectfully call him, is a rather magnificent animal. The proud head of his feathered harem, he happily struts around the farmyard, picking at straw, nibbling bits of anything that’s lying around – including feathers (what!!!) and is fond of the odd dead mouse.
Whenever he finds one, he lollops away from the hens who quickly pick up the scent of said deceased rodent, and as one, all chase the poor boy up and down the yard, pecking at his precious catch, until he invariably drops it.
Then its a veritable frenzy, with feathers flying, cockerel crowing, hens clucking – all over the soggy little lifeless mouse. The victorious one emerges from the scrum and races at top speed away from the rest, mouse tail swinging back and forth from its beak. Cockerel seldom keeps the booty but a remarkable thing happens…… he gets all hormonal and fluffs up his feathers before choosing the nearest hen to offer his….advances to. She shrieks and runs hell for leather away which makes this little randy cockerel even more hormonal and the chase is on until she succumbs to his advances or another hen gets in the way and …….. well, you can imagine.
Then life settles down and all return to the business of pecking away at odds and bobs on the ground. Peace again.
Dusk is an important part of farm life, for most animals settle down for the night and the hen family, all 18, gather at their barn and once inside, have their supper of grain before settling on their perches, softly and quietly.
Tonight, the frost is early. As I stride out for the farm after a tiring day’s work, my wellies make a scrunching noise on the white wintery grass, the crescent moon casting a silvery light which illuminates the ice crystals that twinkle and sparkle underfoot, creating a magical woodland carpet all the way up to the farm.
An hour passes quickly, so many tasks to accomplish to prepare the little stables for my mini equines who are waiting impatiently at their field entrance, out in the dark. Clean straw bed laid, hay nets filled, water buckets replenished, chaff and carrots out for supper treat, yard swept and made ready for bed time, I pause before fetching them in. A sound has caught my attention and I hesitate, as though frozen, listening carefully.
I scare myself silly on a nightly basis down here in the dark with all the animals. Always my mind plays exaggerated detailed scenes of horror as I imagine various bogey men scenes with me as the victim, never found. Another disappeared missing person.
So when I hear an unfamiliar moaning from the other side of the yard, barely six feet from me, I shudder. This is it. I will be attacked tonight and there is no one here to help me. There is no CCTV to capture the assailant, though I have begged the farmer for security. I don’t even have my mobile to frantically call for help. Suddenly I feel helpless and drained of energy. I wait, knowing that fight is futile.
Then I hear it again, the strange sound. Puzzled, I am drawn to the 17 hands grey on the left hand side of the yard. He’s looking at me with a wearisome expression, or is he asleep? I creep over, curiosity momentarily getting the better of my fear until I am standing beside his stall, and I look over into the stable.
There, in the corner is a little chestnut hen, looking quite indignant, clucking softly. Whew! maybe I am safe for the time being. I thank my lucky stars then consider this hen’s predicament. Horses are flight or flight animals who really don’t like the unexpected. Huge horse has not seen the tiny invader at the very back of his stall. Now I have a predicament. If I leave her here for the night, horse might step on her or lie on her and squash her. I know most of you eat chicken on a regular basis but to me this is a little life and one worth saving.
Without fear for myself, I unbolt the stable door and softly creep in beside them. I try my best to whisper to the hen and flap my hands towards the door, hoping for a quiet exit. But it is a hen here. CLUCK!CLUCKCLUCK!! her wings are out and she scoots around the horse’s hooves, weaving in and out of his legs!! OMG! I open the door and mercifully the hen runs out.
Horse stands still and quiet and I give his soft big nose an affectionate scratch before bolting the door. After a frantic run around the darkened icy yard, the hen squawking and running here there and everywhere, I finally catch her between my leg and the wall. Scooping the light as air little hen up, I tuck her under my arm where she immediately settles and make my way into the hen barn. As I set her down at the feeder, her feathered family murmur a clucky acknowledgement of her safe return.
Before I flick out the lights and retire to collect my by now frozen little equines, I stop at the cockerel, who is sitting on his perch, surrounded by his harem. He perks up and extends his neck, one eye cocked, looking at me imperiously.
“She’s back, Mr Cockerel!” I smile at him. “Safe and sound!” I add cheerily, happy with my achievement. He looks momentarily before settling down in a ball and closes his eyes and I quietly slip out.
Later, all animals checked, my two happily munching their supper in their warm cosy stables, I bid the farm friends goodnight and as I make my return journey home, guided by the light of the silvery moon, I smile with inner warmth and peace. It’s a good old life down there.
Goodnight Lou Lou xx