And then there were six

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This morning we opened the run to let the chickens out and we were missing one.

Last night, we’d closed them in just after dark, and Kevin hadn’t done a beak count. We usually check that they’re all there, but we got a little carried away with all the Thanksgiving festivities so we didn’t notice we were down one chicken until today.

Kevin and his favorite chicken

And it wasn’t just any chicken. It was Blondie.

Those of you who come here often know that Kevin forged a particular bond with Blondie. Her inquisitive nature and gregarious sociality endeared her to him. And to me. She was the first to come over to see what you were up to, the first to jump into an open car to look around. She’d wander a little farther, and poke around a little longer, than her compatriots.

We assumed she got picked off by a predator. Coyote? Hawk? Kevin had heard an unusual squawk in the afternoon which, in retrospect, he thought might have been a chicken in distress. At the time, it had seemed close enough to ordinary that he hadn’t investigated.

We went on a hunt through the woods in the direction of the squawk, but found nothing. No carcass, no pile of feathers. Certainly no Blondie.

The death of one chicken made me much sadder than the death of four turkeys, just the week before. Partly, I’m sure it was because chickens are charming and turkeys are not. We felt a fondness for Blondie that we never felt for the turkeys. Mostly, though, it was because the nature of the deaths were different.

The turkeys’ deaths were planned. They were supposed to die, and they did it on schedule and by our own hands. It was right. When you lose a chicken to a predator or an accident, it’s wrong. It happens, of course. I’d go so far as to say we expect it. But it’s a violation of our plan, not a part of it.

And I was sad.

Kevin and I went out again, later in the afternoon, to look around our neighbor’s house, where the chickens often wander (we are fortunate in having tolerant, good-natured neighbors). The six remaining birds rounded out the search party.

We were looking around rather blankly when we heard it. Ba-GAWK. Unmistakably a chicken! Ba-GAWK! We counted the chickens with us – all six, present and accounted for. Ba-GAWK!

It sounded far away, on the other side of our neighbor’s house, and we headed in that direction. And then we heard it one last time, and we knew where she was. Blondie was in their garage. She must have gone in to explore, and gotten shut in accidentally. Most people don’t check for rogue chickens before they close their garage.

We knocked on the door, explained the situation, and then there were seven, again. I never thought I’d be so happy to see a chicken.

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Comments

  1. Blondie’s harrowing garage event ends with a redemption on par with that given Malia and Sacha’s turkeys. Perhaps she watched the turkey dispatch, and decided to put some distance between herself and the cone of silence, the lethal knife, the flaming washer innards, and the cooler. You go, girl!

  2. I am really glad that you got your (dare I say it?) beloved chicken back.

    I love happy endings.

  3. When you found her, did she have a little hobo pack slung over her shoulder? She may have seen the turkeys’ fate and thought “Screw this, Christmas is coming.” Or if your neighbors are vegetarian, maybe she was seeking sanctuary in their garage?

    Either way, I liked the happy ending.

  4. Ha! I was dreaming up the condolences I was gonna send you on the evils of predators and insted a you had me laugh out loud 😀
    If only every lost chook story had such a happy ending xx

  5. Hilarious, and a story well-told!

    One sentence really stood out for me, because it pretty much defines modern (i.e., agricultural) humanity: “(I)t’s a violation of our plan, not a part of it.” I had no idea how much this expectation ruled my life until I started hunting and realized that nature has no respect for plans (which, coincidentally, I’ll be writing about today).

    All that mumbo jumbo aside ( 🙂 ), I’m really glad you found your chicken, and I think it’s hilarious she was locked up in the garage and they didn’t notice.

    As far as turkeys’ loveability: I read something on the Atlantic’s website recently (http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2010/11/consider-the-turkey/66967/) that had a very interesting story about a guy who started spending a lot of time with turkeys. I don’t agree with the overall point of the Atlantic story, but the anecdote is good.

  6. We lose a few chickens to the various foxes that live around here. Sometimes the chooks are faster, and will make it up a tree. Other times the fox is more cunning, and runs off with the chicken to a cacophony of squawking. Then there’s the other other situation, which is as you describe. A little noise in the background of the usual daytime chorus – eggs just been laid, rooster learning to crow, cockatoos, crows and kookaburras. It’s the noise you never heard, at least not until you think about it later when you find out you’re one down.

    We rented a fox trap from the local council – never saw a fox, but the bait kept on disappearing. The addition of a trail camera showed our ever-starving labrador was the guilty party. Despite being useless in every other sense, she could sniff out a chicken carcass at 800 metres (1/2 mile).

    So the constant vigilance remains. Every time there’s a hen-house kerfuffle I come running with the bow & broadhead. The only time I even got close to a chance, the young fox saw me first, offskied. But inevitably, once you hear the noise, it’s too late.

  7. Nice job 4 d rigour of opening up d ist carcass. Ur description is educative ,& good 4 patient learners.