I don't like running at the best of times. And 6.15 in the morning is certainly not the best of times.
To be honest, I don't think any time is a good time for chasing chickens. It puts me in quite a fowl mood. But as there are only three left, I wouldn't like to be responsible for losing any more. Once, there were four brown chickens, six Black Rocks and a cute white one that looked like a snowball. But over the course of the winter, Mr Fox has been picking them off one by one.
The chickens, which roam freely during the daylight hours, have a perfectly fine hen house to sleep in. But they rarely do: why should they when there is the luxury of the stables to enjoy? The American barn with its sliding doors, electric lights, bales of hay, convenient stalls to roost on and horse feed to plunder must be a chicken's idea of a luxury hotel. And that would be all well and good if they didn't decide to sneak outside when you arrive to muck out in the morning.
The fox massacred one on the lawn the other week; today I thought her sisters would be going the same way after I stupidly forgot to close the main door when I took the Grey Mare the few yards to her field. Suddenly, they were clucking around my feet and I was able to quickly shoo two inside. Chicken number three, however, was made of sterner stuff. She was outside and she was not going back in.
I sprinted round and round after this feathered blur, shocked at her turn of speed. If her legs were longer, I would have sworn she was a decendant of the Road Runner. Finally, I managed to corner her near the hen house and fortunately the door was open. I bolted it smartly behind her, and leaving her in solitary confinement, I almost collapsed in a heap with the exertion.
"Are you all right?" asked my friend, arriving to feed her horse. I explained what had happened. "Oh, you should've just put some grain in a bucket and shaken it for them," she said when she stopped laughing at me.
"No, what I should have done," I gasped between pants, "is left the f***kers for the fox!"