Something out of the corner of my eye catches my attention, a fluid movement slips out of view, a deadly shadow in the evening sunlight, slinking ever purposefully towards the hen hut.
A cacophony of noise erupts in the peaceful evening haze. A scrabble of claws, a whirr of beating wings, squawks and thumps and a flurry of hens appears in the middle of the drive.
The wraith-like shadow pauses and passes on. There is easier prey to be had – almost on a plate. For at the back of the pen there is an inviting box and from the box the harbinger of death can smell warmth, blood warmth. Succulent warmth. Adding to the piquancy of the moment is the delicious aroma of fear. Hearts beat faster and faster and louder and louder stamping out the dance of death and in a flurry of downy white feathers the deed is done and all you can hear from inside is the snap of bones and cartilage and the chomp as the Ferret starts on hor d’oeuvres.
By the time I realise what is happening it is all over for the chick. My fury knows no bounds and like an avenging angel I descend upon the vulpine creature snapping it shut in the box. I pause and consider the options before me and in this time, these brief few seconds the Ferret is already making its move. Driven by a fury that matches my own at having its dinner disturbed the Ferret hisses a warning then determinedly it pushes its nose at the corner of the lid. Without thinking I grab at its scruff. There is a squeal of outrage and then the most exquisite pain as Tuppence sinks her fangs into the base of my thumb. I pinch tighter, determined not to let go despite the fact I can hear the crunch as her teeth sink right to the bone. She struggles to get a better grip and sinks her teeth again. I make a grab at her with my other hand and in a blur of mahogany ermine she plants her fangs into the fat of my other hand.
I love my chickens to pieces and instinctively I have gone to their aid but as I dance about the yard with a ferret stuck on my hand I do ask myself are they really worth it?
As the ferret flies through the air to land cat like near the feed bin some 15 yards away I am really angry and I now block its chittering movement with my feet, stamping down just in front of it’s nose letting the vibration force it to back away. Hissing in blind fury the ferret lunges again and realising that I have come out in flip flops I beat a hasty retreat hollering for Roger my neighbour to come to my aid.
Tuppence and I dance around the yard as she determinedly retraces her steps to the scene of the crime (or dinner depending on whose view you take).
Me: Grab it Roger!
Me: The Ferret.
Him: What ferret
Me: That one, the one that bit me (as if there were more than one!)
Him: OK then.
Roger really is a very affable chap. Bonkers I’ll admit. And before I can warn him of the imminent danger he is putting himself to, he stoops to swoop it up and catching it, he expertly holds it in his arms. The ferret knows it is beat and acquiesces. Butter wouldn’t melt.
I glower then realise that I really am bleeding rather a lot and from both hands and it really is rather painful.
Him: Well you shouldn’t have picked it up then should you!
Me: Roger! I had no choice - it was killing my chickens.
Him, with a distinct air of superiority: Get yourself over to Annie and I’ll sort it.
I stomp off to see Annie muttering about know it all old farmers and hissing just like Tuppence about how unfair it is and why does it always happen to me.
Annie sorts me out quickly with a good dollop of TCP and listens as I continue to hiss and spit. Agreeing with me that he is a tiresome old bugger when suddenly there is an almighty yelp – we both grin.