It only takes a moment of carelessness.
I was sitting in the office a few nights ago when I heard a strange sound. If I’d been watching a movie or listening to the radio, I would have missed it. As I’d just moved the rabbits back outside together, I thought perhaps they hadn’t bonded at all and were fighting. As I reached the kitchen door, I could see they were fine, but then I remembered: I’d let the chickens out and had forgotten about them.
I grabbed a flashlight and headed back to their open run. Three chickens were sitting on the coop, two were missing. I could hear a struggle. When I rounded the corner of the run, I was startled to see little Dietrich in the mouth of the largest raccoon I’ve ever seen. The raccoon was trying to climb out of the run with the dying chicken held firm in its mouth. The only way out though was to get past me and back out the open door. I didn’t want to get into a cage fight with a hungry raccoon.
With one hand on a waving flashlight, I scooped up the other frightened chickens and stuffed them in their coop, quickly latched them in, and then backed out of the run. Where was Anastaisa? I could hear her faintly and assumed that another raccoon or two were getting ready to feast on the other side of the fence. I walked around the block, peaked in yards as I could, but there was no sign of her. By the time I got back, Dietrich was dead, the culprit was in the tree watching me, and I was still missing a chicken.
Dietrich started our chicken flock two years ago. I’d seen a picture of Silver-Spangled Hamburg in the book, The Fairest Fowl, and was completely smitten with it’s large black and white polka dots. When the list of breeds came out that spring, there was only one shipment with these little “Pheasant” chickens in, so that’s the day we went to get our chickens. I picked up her limp body, her beautiful feathers now smeared with blood and mud, and with great regret at my forgetfulness, walked over to the yard waste container. It was then I finally found Anastaisa, trying to hide under the deck. Anastasia was never as clever or as skittish as Dietrich, so it was easy to scoop up the frightened bird and get her back into her home with the others.
When our neighbor heard of the Night of the Marauding Raccoons, she offered us one of her chickens as they’d bought too many in the spring, when the chicks are irresistible and tiny. Beatrice is a Buff Brahma, a large breed known for being gentle, good egg-layers with distinctive feathers on their feet. She now at the very bottom of the pecking order, with Bland Ambition, our other Buff Brahma and former bottom girl, being particularly thuggish. Of course, those two lowly hens are the biggest chickens we have and they could easily push around the other three if they only paired up. Ah! But then I don’t think like a chicken!