Based on the title, and because I’m not the most adept at suspenseful openers, I’m just going to say it: the chickens were murdered. Well, not all of them. Just three of them. That leaves one confused, lonely hen that we found wandering the driveway in a state of shock (not sure if chickens can register shock, but if they can, that’s what she was).
We went on vacation last week and of course it was relaxing. However, I realized something about myself. While I did not face work stress or home stress or regular daily stress, I managed to create vacation stress. Rather than just live and let live, I found myself worrying about who was doing what and at what time, when I should be ready by, how long I should stay at the beach, whether I should pack a turkey sandwich or peanut butter and fluff, etc. You know – big decisions. It’s not that my problems were monumental, it’s just that my poor brain doesn’t know how to function without at least a modicum of anxiety. In the absence of actual drama, I somehow manufacture faux drama.
One thing that was actually worth worrying about came in the form of text around mid-week. I had a friend checking in on the animals at home (cat, turtle, fish, chickens), and she found an ominous pile of feathers in the front yard, which she reported to me with a sad face emoticon. She said that she did not see any chickens wandering about.
We got home and immediately set off looking for our flock. It didn’t take long to discover the aforementioned feathers in the front yard… and then the second pile near the neighbor’s yard… and also the third pile near a pine tree. A quick stop at the neighbor’s confirmed that nary a rooster crow had been heard since Tuesday (it was then Friday). Dismayed, we walked up and down the driveway until we found our lone surviving hen, who turned her head at us inquisitively as if to ask, “Where were you? Where were you while my family was being murdered?” Eric quickly gathered her up into the coop and locked it up tightly. The giant food and water feeders we purchased recently take up half the floor space of the coop, serving as a cruel reminder to all that we had and all that we lost.
Obviously, free ranging has its limitations. Eric tried to make me feel better by justifying that this would have happened even if we had been home since we weren’t corralling them at night, but I would imagine that we would have noticed they were being plucked off one by one and locked them up sooner. Really, we should have kept them in the coop full time once the first hen went missing weeks ago. But we loved seeing them strutting around the yard, hiding in the front bushes, perching on the wood pile out back, and creating a little haven in the dry creek bed beside the driveway. The neighbors also enjoyed them immensely, saying it warmed their hearts when they found chickens wandering around their backyard.
Silver linings: we still have one hen. The three roosters that we gave away to the farm are still living (hopefully). And the ones that we lost had very good, albeit short, chicken lives. They roamed freely, eating bugs and ruling the yard. They were not restricted to the tiny cages of giant eggs factories. If it were me, I would prefer a short and free life to a long and imprisoned one. However, these could all just be justifications of a woefully inept caregiver.
The next steps involve finding a chicken friend for Diana Ross (Get it? She will survive?) [EDIT: Diana Ross DID NOT, I repeat DID NOT sing “I Will Survive.” Shame on the writer for not doing her research. The hen’s name shall be Gloria.] and then starting the whole process over again in the spring, if my uncle allows it. Maybe I shouldn’t tell him this little tale. To my lost chickens, I will just say this: I’m sorry, and I hope you can forgive me.