Yesterday we lost a chicken. I went out to gather the eggs, none of the hens were out in the yard. A bad sign. When I poked my head into the coop, about half the chickens were cowering in a corner. Also a bad sign, especially bad when the other half of the chickens are just plain missing.
I went around the back of the hen house; as I rounded the corner, a large raptor of some variety (can’t be sure if it was a hawk or an owl) flew away, and there I saw one of the Rhode Island Reds in a heap, missing some critical parts of her anatomy. She was, sadly, well beyond any help, but happily,s well beyond any suffering. Still no sign of any of the other missing chickens, and all the bad signs had just gone to worse.
I gathered the eggs and took them inside, and told Lina I was going to go look for the other chickens, or at least some sign of what had happened to them. ”A chicken emergency,” I said. I grabbed a shovel, and went back out back to stomp around in the trees, hoping against hope. Alas, none of them were back in the trees.
As I was walking back to the house, I saw a little clump of white off to the side of the chicken yard, and I was pretty sure that was our one Silkie hen. She’s a favorite of ours, for a couple reasons- one is, she is a funny looking little bird, with white poofy feathers and blue skin. Another is, she’s mama to the one chick we hatched this year, who in turn was also missing, along with the chick’s other mama, who is a Buff Orpington. The chick is a local mongrel of indeterminate breeding.
As I walked over to her, she didn’t move. I reached down to see if I could figure out what had happened to her, and suddenly she gave a start and SQUAWKed at me something fierce, and ran straight through the fence back into the chicken yard, where the rest the missing birds had made themselves totally invisible among some corn stalks. They were all within five or six feet of me, and I couldn’t see them. They didn’t move until it was clear their cover was blown, at which point they hightailed it back to the henhouse.
Startled and relieved, but mostly relieved, I closed up the henhouse to count them, and I discovered the mongrel chick was still missing, which I mostly discovered by noticing how distressed the Buff Orpington and Silkie mamas were acting. I opened up the chicken door again, and both those hens walked over to the fence and started clucking, at which point their little wayward chick came running back into the chicken yard.
All chickens now accounted for, I gave thanks that one was not more than one, and marveled at the chicken magic that let them hide from me in plain sight.