Wilma has hardly spoken to me since I’ve been oiling her for mites, she hasn’t wanted to follow me into the bush or eat from my hand, and it wasn’t easy to catch her and put her in a box to take her to the vet this morning. She was terrifically well behaved in the surgery though, so well behaved the vet asked if she was a particularly placid hen, when she is the flightiest, nerviest hen I’ve ever had. She passed her mites inspection with one hundred per cent clear skin, no mites to be seen, but I described her air of misery over the last few days and the vet found she had lost weight since her last visit. Wilma stood looking suitably miserable as the vet said it was likely there may be an underlying condition that had made her vulnerable to mites, and as Wilma slowly sank down to a sitting position letting out the occasional quiet sound as I stroked her feathers, I felt as if she and I were both playing the parts of devoted owner and beloved pet, as if the few lonely weeks when Wilma had followed me around was the truth of our relationship, rather than an unusual interlude that seemed to have come to an end with the mite treatment. In keeping with my performance I didn’t question the suggestion I spend $70 on a medicine that may or may not make any difference at all. When I opened her box back in the coop, I fully expected her to reject my offering of medicated mash, to which I had added garlic, cider vinegar, oats, yogurt and currants, but to my surprise she ate it with some enthusiasm, chased away first Maude then Mabel when they tried to steal some, and then even interrupted her own meal to suddenly chase after Goldie who’d been at the other end of the coop minding her own business. Then as I left the coop, she hurried to catch me up and leave with me, and looked so surprised when I started heading back up to the house that I changed direction and went over the bridge into the bush to see if she would come. She trotted along just as if there had been no estrangement between us, and we had a particularly good spider-hunting session, spotting a good half a dozen spiders every one of which she succeeded in catching. Meanwhile, breaking news back in the coop: till today all the little hens have only cheeped like baby birds, which is one of the reasons I don’t want to let them out of the coop yet given how inviting their cheeping would surely sound to a passing cat, but today Goldie started clucking! It sounds more like a kind of croak or honk, she is not the most melodious hen, but perhaps she will improve with practise.