Last weekend I realised a long-held dream: taming a genuinely wild creature to eat out of my hand. I’d like to say it was a carefully thought-out process, but nothing could be further from the truth.
I’ve always seen robins around on the allotment. I love them for their beady-eyed, inquisitive nature – looking at you as if bemused, cocking their heads to one side, as if to say “are you sure you want to dig like that?”. This year one in particular has been following me as I potter about, weeding, digging and tending to the chickens.
After a Friday night out with Jen – friend, greenhouse-builder and bad influenceextraordinaire, last Saturday was, to say the least, a bit of a write-off. I felt as though those bottles of cider had battered every inch of my body.
Thing is, for better or for worse, when you’ve got chooks, you can’t just spend the day in bed, however much you’d like to. So, after tending to Marian, Arietty and Itchy, I needed a sit-down. Cue robin’s appearance, bright-eyed and bemused as ever.
I’d heard that robins go mad for freeze-dried mealworms (available from DIY and pet stores) – which, luckily, are a treat I keep in stock for my chickens. Sitting there in the sun, head pounding and unwilling to move, wrapped up in sunglasses, scarf and hat… it seemed the perfect moment to try it out.
First, a gentle scatter of just a couple of mealworms. After initial reticence, the robin dives in. Repeat, only closer. Robin dives again, pecking hungrily at the tasty treat. I knew I had its attention. Never give too much away at one time – they’re messy eaters and will pick at the crumbs for ages in preference to coming any closer. After 20 minutes of steadily getting closer, the unthinkable happened:
Seeing such a tiny, delicate wild bird perched on my finger sent a shiver of joy through me. Suddenly my hangover faded and the world seemed a brighter place; sharing a spring afternoon with not a word spoken, hearing the wind rustle new leaves on the willows and feeling the world wake up after a long winter.