Every chickeneer has a count. You know, the way you check to ensure all your babies are accounted for. It might be a simple “I have ten chickens, so I count to ten”, or it may be more detailed, as mine is. As I pointed out once to Stepdaughter the Elder, if you just do a straight count, and you’re missing someone, you won’t know who’s missing!
Your mileage, as always, may vary.
My technique is counting by breed. We started out with three chickens each of four breeds, and the count went (from lightest to darkest): 3 white, 3 blond, 3 red, 3 barred. Nice, even, rhythmic.
We lost Jack to gender, and the count changed, but it was bittersweet; I knew where he was and how he was doing. Then we lost Angelina to a fox the day after Hurricane Irene, and the count went to: 3 white, 2 blond, 2 red, 3 barred. And it stayed that way for a long time. I got used to it.
To those of you for to this seems silly, I can’t explain it. There is a deep satisfaction and relief, for me, in knowing that the count is right, that my girls are all okay, and I have fulfilled my job as their caretaker, at least for that day. There is the peace of knowing that no one has been left locked out of the coop for the night, terrified, or worse. We count. Right?
With the integration of this spring’s chicks, the count got a wee more complex (from oldest to youngest then lightest to darkest): 3 white, 2 blond, 2 red, 3 barred, 3 laced, 3 black, and (once we rehomed Gregory Peck) 2 Easter Eggers. And it was good.
And then, I lost Pip to heat and/or egg laying, and Gidget to a car accident. And the count changed again: 2 white, 2 blond, 2 red, 3 barred, 2 laced, 3 black, and 2 Easter Eggers. I was okay. This was part of the deal, and I always knew that. I still miss Pip’s cry for cuddles and Gidget’s squatting athletically for the chicken butt handshake, but…life went on.
And then, I lost Buffy. I’m sorry; I know I’m carrying on, but this one has changed everything for me. She was the one who never failed to run out to greet me, and ask, nay, demand, not just the chicken butt handshake, but a full body massage. If I was paying attention to someone else at roost time, she’d come forward on the roosts and insist I pay attention to her. She was a frequent guest in the house. She was my girl.
The tyranny of the count is this: I feel her absence all the more, because now, for the first time, there is a 1. Trixie is our last remaining Buff Orpington. And, so, the count goes: 2 white, 1 blond, 2 red, 3 barred, 2 laced, 3 black, and 2 Easter Eggers.
We haven’t caught that cat yet, but we’ve seen him around. I’m convinced the kill happened when it did because the cold weather has kept our cats inside; both Lucius and Oliver have been seen keeping this cat at bay, defending their turf. Knowing the chicken killer is still at large makes me nervous, frankly, about leaving my girls alone.
So, when I leave today, I’ll be putting our two black cats out.
Let’s recap, shall we? I’m putting the cats out. To defend the chickens.
I have guard cats, whether they know it or not.