April 30, 2012
hand-feeding chickens

Photo by Audrey Pavia

My three “missing” chickens are safe and sound.

There’s a line in an old Joni Mitchell song: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” This morning, I came to truly understand the meaning of those words.

As per my usual routine, I stumbled out of bed and staggered outside to feed the horses and open the chicken coop. After tossing the horses their hay, I went to lift the roof of the chicken coop only to discover that it was already open. Apparently, I had forgotten to close it up the night before.

Two of my hens were inside, snuggled in nest boxes, but my two roosters and my other hen were not in the coop. I glanced around the yard, surprised they hadn’t greeted me at the door the minute I came outside. They are shameless beggars and always make a beeline for me whenever I step out of the house.

I walked around the yard, frantically searching for them. They were not on the lawn, not on the patio, not on the driveway. They weren’t in the horse stalls, nor were they on the side of the house.

I started to panic. What had happened to them? I ran back to the coop and searched madly for signs of blood and feathers. How could something have gotten them without leaving any signs of a struggle? What had made such a clean disappearance with them? A coyote? A bobcat?

As I stood staring at the open coop, I felt tears welling up. A wave of pain and loss overcame me as I thought about my orange rooster, his black-and-white brother and my little gray hen.

“They can’t be gone!” My mind was racing with denial. “This can’t be happening!”

But just then, as if on cue, my orange rooster came ambling into view from behind a bush, with the other two chickens following close behind.

“There you are!” I yelled out as I ran to them. I was so happy to see them, I squatted down on the ground to get as close as I could. They gathered around me, and I stifled the urge to reach out and hug them, knowing they would have none of it. So instead I talked to them, told them how they had scared me, how happy I was to see them, and how much I loved them. The three of them stood motionless, staring at me with heads cocked, as if trying to understand what I was saying.

A sense of relief overcame me as I went into the garage to get them their breakfast. The sound of their little feet pitter-pattering behind me was wonderful.

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