I was enjoying a lovely hot bubble bath last night when I heard a strange noise from the back garden. Initially I ignored it, assuming that it was the neighbour's dog over the back. When the strange squeaking sound came again, I paid more attention. I climbed out of the bath, grabbed a towel and peered out of the bathroom window. I couldn't see anything, which isn't surprising since I wasn't wearing my glasses and was trying to see through obscured glass. Realising my lack of visual effectiveness, I wandered in to the eldest's bedroom to gaze down upon the Palace. All looked well.
Just as I was about to head back to the bath, the sound came again. A rapid succession of squeaky yelps. They were definitely not coming from the garden to the rear. These sounds were much closer. my heart sank. These had to be the sounds of a young fox. Taking the stairs three at a time, I legged it past the ever tolerant husband, garbbed a torch from the kitchen and flung open the back door. There was no more squeaky yelping, but I could now hear scrabbling from near the Palace.
This is it, I thought. The local fox population has finally cottoned on to the walking buffet in my back garden. My girls will never be able to free range again, and at some point the wiley creatures will get lucky. I will one day have to face the aftermath of a fox attack. Every chicken keeper knows that this might happen, but I couldn't believe just how devastated I felt by the possibility that it was happening now.
I shone the torch all around the Palace, expecting at any minute to see a fox attempting to chew it's way in to the run. Seeing nothing, I widened my search. The (rather pathetic) beam of light skipped over the children's football, the chooks treat bowl and an old brown shoe. Hang on. An old brown shoe? I homed in on this stray footwear for a closer look.
The shoe was eating a roast potato. Because it wasn't a shoe. It was the biggest, fattest hedgehog I have ever seen. And it was squeaking with joy at having found a stray piece of spud that I'd given the hens after dinner. It momentarily stopped stuffing it's chubby hedgehog cheeks to watch me thoughtfully. Deciding that I wasn't going to try and steal it's prize, it went back to chowing down.
We watched the hedgehog finish it's meal, and then wander about the garden looking for more. Coming up short, it mooched over to the bird bath for a drink, then wombled off under the rhododendron. It was a delightful encounter, and it was good to see Mr. Hedgehog carrying a few extra ounces as he prepares for hibernation. I checked on the hens, and found all but ASBO Chicken snoozing, oblivious.
I wonder if Maeve sensed the spud stealing intruder.