We are being stalked. Two figures hang around the back porch waiting to pounce, even daring to come into the house if the door is left open.
They know no fear. Apparently starving, they will even mug the dogs if there are any crumbs, scraps or titbits left in a dog bowl by the back door.
Desperate times require desperate measures seem to be their motto.
Our stalkers and muggers are in fact two of the dozen hens we had from a friends’ poultry farm. Destined for chicken pies or such like, we brought them home when they were deemed no longer suitable for commercial egg laying.
Bedraggled and virtually bald, they took some persuading by the resident hens to leave the hen hut.
Mind you it was and is cold and they are still not well feathered. Perhaps I should have provided them with jackets.
Gradually over the last few weeks these chickens have explored the barns and yards around the hut.
And two of them have decided that they do not want to return to communal living any more. Instead they have taken up residence in an old dog kennel facing the back door of the farmhouse.
From there they keep a constant watch on the comings and going of the farmhouse and have quickly learned that there is an almost constant supply of food being disposed off and ready for the taking.
Far from being the timid birds they were when bought to us, they now fearlessly pinch food from under the dogs’ noses and think nothing of coming into the porch, wiping their claws on the mat and checking out what Millie, our terrier, has in her bowl.
One was even in the kitchen yesterday. A daring move indeed when a roast bird was in the oven. Discretion might be the better part of valour for this bird. Especially as we haven’t seen any sign of her laying eggs yet.
But that could be because I have not found her nest. The others have all started laying again and have formed meaningful relationships with our two dashing Maran cockerels. I have high hopes of some handsome progeny.
At the same time that we offered a home to these potential pie ingredients, another friend, Ed, took some in too.
He very quickly learnt how to ensure that they received the individual attention they felt they had been deprived of living in a shed with thousands of other birds.
Instead of walking up the ramp into the new Dorchester-style chicken hotel Ed had made for them, they insisted on an intimate bedtime ritual of being carried into the hut, dusted and dried off (after all they had never seen rain) and then carefully placed on a perch.
This has altered recently. They now solemnly traipse up the ramp at bedtime, but instead of cleaning their claws before going in, each one carefully swipes their beaks from side to side on the hut entrance.
Take note Ed. Toothbrushes required in the en suite now.