We cannot go out anymore. Possibly not even to work. Not, as would be almost reasonable, because of the hideous cold that has seen the deforestation of a small South American country in order to keep us in tissues. No no, not that. We have become daylight security detail for the hens.
My delight at the resumed productivity of our hens is facing a serious setback. A sleek, black, feathered setback. The Crow. See that beady eye? The muscular legs? The tensely coiled posture? The giant beak?* All weapons in The Crow’s arsenal. He? She? The Ayatollah? arrives mid-morning and takes up position in one of the Ash trees at the back of the yard. From this vantage point my black nemesis has learned the daily comings and goings of our flock. No longer bothering to swoop down and snack on the hen’s breakfast leftovers of grain and corn, The Crow bides its time, sensitive to every one of Agnes and Co’s feathery tells.
The scratching of claws on the wooden floor of the hen house, as one of the ladies prepares her nest (or if it’s Lola, her six nests – every day, six nests, then she chooses her favourite). The lull as the hen is doing her best work for the day, still and quiet on her chosen nest. Then the triumphant fanfare of bokking as she exits the house, alerting everyone – feathered and not – to her great feat.
That is when The Crow strikes. Dropping silently to the ground, unheeded by hens busy with their post-laying snack, it stalks purposefully up the ramp into the hen house. There it peers into the nest, sniggering gleefully (I assume) before carefully lifting the precious egg in its beak and hopping back to the doorway. Pausing briefly to check for witnesses, it then makes a break for it over the back fence, snow white egg clamped in glossy black beak.
This backyard atrocity came to light a few mornings ago. Standing at the kitchen sink, holding small and a mug of tea, I watched The Crow fly across the yard, wondering why it was carrying one of the beloved’s golf balls. Realisation dawned quickly enough for me to dump small unceremoniously on the kitchen floor and dash outside, staggering across the yard with my boots half on, shouting ‘DROP IT!! DROP IT!!’ in the manner of someone with a thieving dog. Luckily The Crow did drop it, Mrs P’s bright white egg, safely into a garden bed from where I triumphantly retrieved it. Smugly, I went back inside, resumed activity with tea and small, only to watch the entire scene replayed instantly with Agnes’s egg. I swear it winked at me as it took off over the neighbour’s balcony. Bastard.
*Photo not of actual Crow, but surely a close relative. Unable to photograph actual Crow as it’s shaking so hard with mocking laughter whenever it sees me.