Here we go again.
I’ve had a hard time getting the girls to bed lately, especially 1.0. I guess they figure they’re all grown up now, and they don’t need a curfew. I’ve had to herd them into their coop at almost-dark, an hithertofore unknown problem.
At around 5pm last night, when I fully expected them to be all roosted. I looked out the kitchen window to see most of 1.0 peacefully grazing on the lawn, as though it weren’t very nearly dark. I shooed them into the barn and up the coop hallway.
In so doing, I heard a distressed chicken, outside the run. When I got the girls herded into the coop, I did a quick count. Twelve. WHAT?!
I ran out to the run, to find Haley deep in Junk Jungle, crying. Highly unusual. I called her out to me, and carried her into the coop. Thirteen.
A quick count told me that Marilyn and Delilah were still missing. I wasn’t too worried; two or more chickens missing generally means shenanigans more often than it means trouble. I went back around to the run to find Marilyn, staring at the closed run door. She was a bit harder to catch, but I got her settled into the coop, too. Fourteen.
At this point, I began to worry. While all had seemed business-as-usual with the 1.0 crowd southeast of the barn, Haley’s and Marilyn’s behaviour told me something predatorial may have happened northwest of the barn. Haley doesn’t just hide in the brush by herself.
I searched the perimeter of the field, the barn, and the house. I searched around the pond and through Fox Woods. I searched the inside of the barn, and all the various nests. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d had a first-year layer laying after lockdown.
I tried the whole circuit over again ten minutes later, with a flashlight this time. Dark had fallen, and I was searching for a black hen, possibly an injured black hen, who couldn’t respond. I did the circuit yet again, fifteen minutes later. When The Man came home after The Stepdaughters’ soccer practice, he did it, too, just to give it a fresh set of eyes.
Something had spooked Haley and Marilyn, and likely, Delilah, as well; that much is safe to assume. What happened then is only a guess. There was no body, and no black feathers. The only predator I know of who could possibly kill so cleanly is a hawk. Either Delilah had been caught and killed by a hawk, or she had been scattered far enough that she couldn’t get home before dark.
There was nothing to do but wait and see. The low last night was a relatively warm 23F; if she were alive and unharmed, she might survive, and she might find her way home in the morning.
Except that she didn’t. It’s 1pm now, and I think it’s safe to say she’s gone. No body, no feathers, just…gone.
We’ve been through a lot together, gentle reader, so I’m not going to lie to you: there have been no tears for Delilah. There was a sigh, a curse, and a shrug, in that order. Delilah was a nasty, ornery hen, and she didn’t like me much, either. I am upset, but far from inconsolable, as I was with Buffy.
It turns out I don’t love them all the same.
Delilah, I hope you make it back some how, or, if you can’t, make it to another flock you can join. We’ll keep a candle in the window…