Winter is well and truly here. For the last few mornings there has been a frost on the lawn, and the hens have been rather reluctant to come down for breakfast. They emerge slowly, blearily blinking in to the faint light before stuffing their crops with pellets. As soon as they've refuelled, they retreat to the relative warmth of the coop. I don't blame them.
Sometime around mid morning they decide that conditions have improved enough to warrant a rampage around the garden. After a short sprint, most end up huddled in the corner in a vain attempt to catch some warmth from the weakening sun. After just a few hours, my ladies have usually had enough. I am back to making a warm porridge for them laced with poultry spice, and they devour this before taking themselves off to bed at 6pm. All in all, the rapid change in temperature has mightily disgruntled them.
I was upstairs when I heard the cat scream. I assumed that a rogue moggy had got in to a fisticuff's situation with another of it's kind, and looked nosily out of the window. The cat was in the back garden. The hens were free ranging. Not good. By the time I got to the backdoor, I realised that I hadn't heard one bok from the girls. Hmmm.
The cat is an irregular visitor. It is a young white, ginger and black tom and has shown considerable interest in the hens over the past few months. It was now peering out from behind the blueberry bushes in the corner. I initially assumed it had taken up this vantage point all the better to stalk from. However on closer inspection, I realised that the cat was the one being stalked.
Maeve stood in the middle of the lawn, hackles and wings raised. She strutted back and forth, just a few steps, in what was clearly a 'come and have a go if you think you're hard enough' manner. The cat was apparently unnerved by this which seemed odd, until I remembered that I'd heard the sound of a considerably unhappy cat just a moment ago from upstairs. The other hens were nowhere to be seen, but I could hear appalled mutterings from the coop. I suspect that once the cat had shown itself, the flock scattered. All but Maeve ran for safety. Already in a vile mood due to her moult, and with the added indignity of the lack of sunbathing opportunities at this time of year, the appearance of the feline intruder apparently proved too much. It is easy to imagine Maeve leaping in to the air, and going all kung fu master on the poor puss. Either that, or she waited for him to stalk close enough to be within pecking range, and then went for the tender flesh of the nose. Either way, Tiddles had apparently got more than he bargained for.
I watched this bizarre stand off involving one of natures most efficient hunters and a very small pissed off chicken, and thought: that's my girl. She stopped her display momentarily to eyeball me, then turned back to the cowering cat. Lifting her skirts and thrusting her head forward, she charged. The cat was up and over the fence in seconds. Maeve watched it's progress, then shook herself and nibbled at the lawn. One by one, the rest of the flock emerged and joined her. The cat sat on a neighbouring fence, and tried to regain it's poise. Every so often it would crane it's neck, presumably to make sure that the raggedy black chicken wasn't in pursuit.
I wouldn't put it past her, to be honest.