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.
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.