Farm Life, Highland cattle, Uncategorized, Uvie Farm

I find myself being stalked

Abby stands foursquare in the middle of the road, obstructing my access to the gate. Small and black with a nice regular spread of horns she would alarm a stranger. She is immobile, catching the most of the breeze to dry off after a wild night. Billy waits at the side of the road, similarly statuesque – and damp. I tease the flattened hair on her coat before passing on, her ears go back and her head down but she doesn’t move. She knows what she needs.
Flora and Moira are pacified by feed in the trough, leaving Morag alone with her bucket doctored with cod liver oil. Across the yard I skoosh calf feed into the sheep trough for the babies, Holly and Alice, dimly aware of my ghostly companion the robin who flashes past like a miniature fighter jet. I spot him again later as I unload timber, flying past me into the shed where I stack boards of burr elm and ash. He takes up a distant vantage in the apex, barely discernible against the gable. He is not the type who perches on the gardener’s spade, not a Christmas card bird. He follows me discreetly, lurking semi concealed like an old fashioned gumshoe employed by a jealous wife.
Today he is not my only stalker. My one remaining Wyandotte is behaving very strangely. Wyandottes are small decorative chickens, with brown and grey flecked feathers graded like old slates in paisley-like patterns trimmed with orange. My chook is ailing. it was the Nog first brought her to my attention, his predator’s instinct pointing the huddle of feathers in a dish of hay at roosting time when no chook should be sleeping on the ground. For the last three nights I pick her up and propel her onto the loft and safety. She must wake from sleep to find herself inexplicably in mid air, but instinct takes over even if it takes her a while to trim once coming in to land.
She is wobbling round the yard, every now and then losing her balance and sitting back where she stays like a small animated football, periscope head swivelling. I realise she is following me. Each time I enter the yard during the day she gravitates unevenly toward me, even peeling away from her companions to teeter towards me as I enter the gate. Twice I throw her a handful of corn, but she has none of it. Finally I stoop down and talk to her. She walks to within six inches of my face, her beady eyes losing their confusion, and stretches her neck out in a determined effort to peck or pull at my upper face- my eyes, my forehead, my hair I can’t tell. She is expressing some need directed towards me. Is her gesture some hangover from early life directed towards mother hen? Is she looking to me for something she knows she won’t find from her companions? Or has she spotted some array of spiders or grubs in my hair, or grass seed – always possible, I suppose. Chickens are hard to read, garrulous but with sharp eyes.
The afternoon is already drawing in, so I tuck her under my arm. At least this time she’ll be awake when she makes her night flight, her vol de nuit. It might be her last.

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