I came home from work Tuesday night and the usual menagerie came running to greet the arrival of my truck: Duke the dog, Cassiopeia the cat, Evil Rooster but only two hens. There should have been three hens.
I do not know why the chickens come to meet me. Apparently they realize I am in the truck and that I might mean food. I simply can not attribute affection to them. The hens might like me a little, but I know Evil R. recognizes my arrival as just one more opportunity to attack me. He got in three attacks before I could whack him with my purse.
It is not bad enough that I am officially no longer cool in any sense of the word, even though I still ride a Harley. No. Now I am reduced to trying to defend my aging self against a little rooster by swinging my purse at him like some old lady. The humiliation of maturity never stops.
One of the hens always seems to be a rogue, straying far from Evil R. and the other two, to scratch about in her own territory. I thought maybe she was just out of sight. The little Cochin hen is currently sitting on a nest of eggs, so I knew right where she was. I looked around for the loner hen and could not find her. I had a bad feeling. When I went to the pen, thinking maybe she had started nesting too, I found her lying dead under the coop. I was sad.
I checked the little body over as well as I could to see what caused her death, but there were no marks or missing feathers. Duke became the prime suspect because if a wild predator had killed her, there would have been no body left to find.
I penned Evil Rooster and his two girl friends and cast a suspicious eye on the Duke. He acted normal, though. I even laid the body in front of him, but he gently smelled her all over then lost interest. It is a huge gamble to leave the chickens out during the day when I am not here. There are many predators, day and night, that would love to eat a chicken. Duke has been very well behaved toward the chickens so I was not worried about him. But now, I do not know.
The chickens enjoy scratching in the leaves and dirt so much that I decided to let them out during the day. They are busy from the moment I open the gate, scratching and pecking at everything that moves. They have sorted through all the leaves under the front porch and on the back patio several times over in the last few days. Their industriousness can only be a benefit in reducing the insect population. I no longer had the heart to leave them in the pen all the time, especially when I saw the variety of things they eat, and how fat their little bodies were becoming, and how much they enjoyed their freedom.
Duke might not be to blame, but he is under a heavy cloud of suspicion - a canine of interest, as they say on the news of suspects in sensational murders. I will only let the chickens out of the pen now when I am home. Duke knows well enough that when I am home, those chickens are not to be touched.
So, I buried little Amidala, who was around one year old. I thanked her for being part of my life for such a short time and apologized that I had not been a better steward on her behalf. I always feel responsible for the death of the animals that come under my care, and feel guilty for not taking better care of them. Her obituary follows:
Amidala D'Uccle was hatched somewhere in the Midwestern United States in early spring of 2008. She came to live at Spirit Creek Farm in May, 2008 after being purchased at a poultry swap meet in Topeka, Kansas. Amidala was named for the beautiful queen in Star Wars because she had the whitest and softest feathers of all the D'Uccle hens. It is possible that she was the only chicken in the history of Wabaunsee County to get a bath. She is survived by her flock mates.