I may have said this before but will continue to say it – having chickens is kind of stressful. They are fun to watch, mine are friendly like dogs and their eggs are amazing but they might be more fun in an urban area or at least one where there is a little less wildlife. I’m talking predators.
I recently moved my electric, portable chicken fencing to a different area thinking the hens would like a change of scenery and a place where there was more fodder. In doing so I moved it away from their beloved apple tree and all hell has really broken loose since then. They are not fans of the new space and would prefer to be around the base of that big, old tree. Some of them got out daily – flew over the fence. Now, I must admit the fence sagged in a couple of places and I had been a little lazy about fixing it. They make a particular noise when they fly the coop and I just go pick them up and throw them back into the enclosure.
All of my hens look the same except one – her legs are yellow instead of pink – so we just call her Yellow Legs. The other hens pick on her more, we figure because she’s different. She’s at the bottom of the order, but she’s pretty sweet and I like the fact that I can recognize her immediately. When I made the capes for the hens I quilted each one a different way so at least I can tell them apart when I’m up close. It’s more to see who is a repeat offender in different situations.
The past few weeks I have had one particular hen that gets out a couple of times a day – once she’s out she pecks around but it seems as if she is just looking for me. When she sees me she’ll run over, then follow me around. I’ll pick her up and put her back in. When I go to collect the eggs she always runs into the nesting boxes to greet me. She’s a funny bird. Two vertical stripes is her tag. I know who she is.
Yesterday afternoon I was in the house and heard the telltale sound of flying the coop. I was in the middle of something, then totally forgot about it. Sitting, drinking my afternoon coffee in the living room I heard such a cacophony in the side field I leaped out of my chair to see a fox with a mouth full of feathers. I bolted out of the door and it ran across the road, stopped to peek at me over the bank, then continued to run into the woods. At the same time I saw two hens running in the opposite direction around the back of the barn. There were feathers EVERYWHERE.
Once my heartbeat slowed I walked to the pen to do a head count – six, two missing but I didn’t stop to see who. Good, at least I knew that the fox hadn’t taken any. Now to get the two freaked out hens back to safety.
I walked out to the back of the barn and started my chick, chick call. Nothing. Chick, chick – stop, listen. Chick, chick – a quiet little chicken sound. I saw a hen pop her head over a weed covered bank. I got some cracked corn and coaxed her to me. She did her hen squat and I picked her up. Yellow Legs (and she never gets out).
I spent probably another half an hour calling and calling to no avail. I was sure it was my little friend with the two vertical stripes but when I checked she was in the yard. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I went inside made and ate some dinner. Informed my sister that I had lost a hen, probably to the same fox that has been trying to get hers. I planned out what to do to keep the hens safer and mourned the fact that I hadn’t done such a good job so far. I went out and picked up some of the feathers in the field (they are so beautiful). Went back and walked the woods in back of the barn one more time calling – nothing.
I can see the coop from a window in the house. The chickens don’t go in to roost until 8:30 these days so I watched them one by one hop onto the ramp and make their way inside, once they are in I go lock the door. Then I saw a hen outside of the fence.
Running outside I knew it was the missing one because she has one, single tail feather. I picked her up, put her in the pen and breathed a sigh of relief.
This morning I put the fence up around the tree, reinforced so there are no sags and will hope for the best. Now I have another hen I recognize immediately – One Feather. Honestly, I liked it better when I didn’t know who any of them were.