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And then there were four left

Susan Manzke
The hens near their coop.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was writing about adding five hens to my flock of four. After buying these five chicks, my friend Kathy found out that her subdivision wouldn’t allow her to keep them in her backyard.

These five were not just Kathy’s pets. They were her friends.

The ‘girls’ came to live on Sunnybook farm mid-July. Of course, they all had names. The Black Australop was called Chocolate; the Buff Orpington’s name was Tangerine; the Salmon Favorelle was known as Bonnie Raitt; the Silver Lace Wyandotte was dubbed Elsa; and last but not least, the Barred Rock was Bat Girl but in my mind she was Bad Girl. I re-named her after she came flying out of the coop and hit me in the back of my head.

I had my fingers crossed that my old hens wouldn’t beat up the new additions. They did boss them around, but feathers never flew.

Even though the new five and the old four ate and slept in the same coop, they didn’t associate with each other. When I set them free in the afternoon, five went one direction and four the other, only to return in the evening to the coop.

When all nine arrived at the coop door the old gals blocked the pullets from entering. They just stood in the doorway and wouldn’t let them in. Only after sunset, did the four allow them inside, but first, they took the prime places on the roost. After the old hens were settled were the five young birds allowed inside.

Susan’s grandchildren, Caleb and Aryana feeding the pullets.

I hoped they would eventually merge into one flock, but weeks went by and the division continued.

Kathy came to visit her girls once a week. Even when she had a sore leg, Kathy managed to get down on the ground, call to her girls, and hand-feed them treats.

Every evening, I’d call the hens, too. They came running to me. They knew it was time to go inside and that I would make the old hens behave and let them in.

One evening, I called the girls and no one came. Maybe they had already gone in to roost, I thought, and went to the coop. There were four birds inside. Three old hens and the one Kathy called Bonnie Raitt.

I walked around the yard again, continuing to call, “Chick. Chick. Chick.” Many times before, the birds came in late, hiding nearby the pen. It was so unusual that they didn’t come.

The corn growing around the farmyard had intrigued them in the past, but they had only gone in maybe one row. If they had gone farther into the corn, maybe they were lost.

Chocolate, Tangerine, Bat Girl, and Elsa before their disappearance.

I closed the four hens in the coop, but left the big door open so the others had a place to go when they showed up.

At dark, no other chicken appeared. I closed the big door.

In the morning, I searched again. Not far from the coop I found some feathers, gray and white ones.

Later, Rebecca and Andy came for a backyard picnic. They found signs of feathers in four other places.

I’m pretty sure the hens became supper for a pack of coyotes. I had heard them a few nights before. It had to be a group to be able to get five hens and then take off with them. At least, that’s my guess.

I didn’t want to tell Kathy. All her pullets were named. My missing hen was called Silver because that was her color, silver.

Kathy was sad, but she understood that things happen on a farm.

It has been a week since the massacre. I allowed the four remaining chickens outside today for the first time. They didn’t stay outside long. Soon they were roosting in their coop, afraid to venture far. Well, at least I didn’t lose any more chickens today.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.