Last Saturday the chicken coop got a new stuffing of hay and the chicken flock took the opportunity to leave the pen, too. Snow covered the ground so the extent of their venturing was to cling to the base of a large tree near their pen, or gather on the edge of an upturned bucket. I assumed that once their house was back in order with fresh food and water served, they would come in out of the snow and cold. They chose to remain huddled in the snow.
I had to leave, and knew it would be a close call to return home by dark. I have not seen a coyote nor any tracks near the house recently, so I was not too worried about their safety in the short term. When I got home later that night, the chickens had returned to the coop but only eleven were there. I thought maybe Tenzing had returned to her solitary condo on the back porch - a long trek through twelve inches of snow for a little hen about nine inches tall, though.
I closed up the pen against predators and came in the house but there was no little hen on the back porch. I sadly assumed the wild critters had collected one of the hens as a tithe.
It was not until Sunday evening when I was coming back from the barn, wearing the marvelous headlamp (a gift from my kids)that I noticed in the laser-like beam a white lump on top of the chicken pen. (The entire pen is enclosed in chicken wire to protect the chickens from ground and air attacks.) The lump turned out to be the Evil Rooster, formerly known as Elvis. He had been away from his flock, in the brutal winter elements for twenty four hours. Where he had been all night and all day, I do not know. He was perched at the peak of the pen and I could not reach him. I had to force him down with a rake. I was certain he was frost bitten, maybe even dying, though he protested mightily over the rude raking. I simply put him in the coop with his flock and hoped the gradual warming would be the best thing for him. He immediately began eating, so at least his gizzard was not frozen.
What a calamity it was for him to be alone in the brutal cold with no food, no water, no warmth. D'Uccles do not roost with their heads under their wings, so I was certain his comb was frostbitten. He has stayed in the midst of his flock since I put him back in the coop, and his comb is turning dark. I do not know if he will lose all of it, or not. I can hardly believe the poor little guy survived for twenty four hours on his own, anyway. There are so many animals that would love to eat a rooster - not just coyotes.