My friends June and Pete are away for a few days and they have asked me to feed their two chickens, Ginger and Pepper and their cat, Toby. I've also been instructed to give Toby loads of cuddles and strokes which of course I am only too delighted to do!
Toby coming to meet me when I let myself in the house.
Toby is a bit of a character. When she was a kitten June and Pete thought she was a he, hence the butch name. It was only after the first visit to the vet they were told that no, he was definitely a she. They were so used to calling her Toby, the name stuck.
June's hens were a Christmas present from Pete a couple of years ago. (Once he gave her a wormery. Isn't he a lovely romantic man). There is always great competition in the village to feed the chickens when they go away, and not just because Pepper and Ginger are adorable, but the one who feeds them, gets to keep the eggs!
I was warned that Ginger is feeling broody at the moment and that she spends most of her time on her nest. I went into the nesting box and there she was sitting contentedly and gently clucking quietly away to herself.
Isn't she pretty?
After gently lifting her off her nest and retrieving the egg, I decided to let them out for a little scratch around the garden while I fed Toby.
Ginger's carefully guarded egg. I felt so mean taking it. It was really warm. She didn't seem to mind too much and was certainly up for a run around the garden with Pepper. Meanwhile I went to see to Toby.
I think Toby has been talking to Scaredy, afterall they only live a couple of hundred yards apart. She has got all the habits of Plumpy, Elbi, Mahou and Beeps. Although each morning she was left a plate of dry food, it would still be there untouched in the evening, so I always ended up giving her a sachet of wet food. These cats certainly stick together.
Meanwhile back in the garden I thought it was time I returned the chickens to their run. I was told that 'a handful of corn as a treat will bring them back at a run, but if desperate, use a tomato'. The corn didn't work as Pepper just jumped up and pecked it out of my hands, and when I threw it into the run she looked at me as if to say 'you must be joking'. After a lot of cajoling, pleading and and downright begging I resorted to the tomato. I cut it into chunks. She hung around outside the kitchen door watching me with her sharp little eyes.
Pepper loitering with intent. She was ready to pounce. As soon as I emerged from the kitchen she flew up at me and stole the pieces of tomato straight from my hand! Back I went to cut up more. This time I was prepared for her and I cupped my hands firmly together. She raced after me and shot into the run as soon as I threw the peices in. Got her. Phewww! One down, one to go.
Ginger however, was a different kettle of fish altogether. She was not easily lured by corn or tomato. I chased her round and round the garden and just as I thought I had got her, she slipped off again. I'm going to be here all day, I thought. In desperation I went back home for Peter and he came to help me round her up. I wondered whether Badger would do the trick for us but decided that she would scare her too much.
At last we had her cornered. No, she's off again. This time there was going to be no mucking about. I rugby tackled her, picked her up and stuffed her into the nesting box and shut the lid quick. There were feathers flying, squawks and a great flapping of wings.
The pair of them safely back in their run. A couple of hours later I crept back to have another look at her. I was worrying about her and the missing feathers. I even wondered whether I could stick them back somehow. She was fine. Back in her nesting box, sitting staring vacantly into space while she incubated her make-believe egg. I stroked her gently and she clucked contentedly back at me.
And look what we've got. An omlette for tea methinks.