Dr. Gooch was already out at the beach. I had spent the previous night and all morning packing the car and the children to make the drive out to join him. As we spoke on the phone I wondered aloud whether the chickens (3 laying, 3 two months old) would be okay if we left the coop door open so they could freely go in and out while we are away (three nights).
Yeah, they'll be alright.
If I had only thought through it though. If I had just remembered that most likely it had been a fox that had come not weeks before this and taken our young barred rock rooster (that we were saving to eat ourselves). If I had realized that this fox would have informed the whole fox family of the jackpot of plump free-ranging chickens at Cicada Cottage (left unattended). [Because it felt like they just KNEW we had left them unattended].
If only. But I didn't think this through and the rascals and I came home to several piles of feathers in the yard. The remains of six last struggles. I had not been there to protect this helpless hens and they were gotten.
Over the phone, we said over and over to each other, "I'm just so sad about our chickens." It was a surprising feeling that I experienced due to the loss of poultry mainly used for eggs and eventual meat. Yet, they had become a part of our daily ritual.
They emerged from their coop as we did from our beds. At the sink, washing cereal bowls I would watched them excitedly strut around the yard beaks to grass grabbing bugs and greens for breakfast. They would come running from resting spots when I brought out the "chicken bowl" of kitchen scraps or a cup of wheat. They selflessly gave three gorgeous eggs each day. Then, as I washed the dinner dishes at the end of a day they would march up that skinny ramp to roost for the night and we'd send a runner down to lock 'em up for safe sleeping.
We helped each other and gave what was needed. Except for that fateful night of neglect. It was the first night we were away for there were only 3 eggs layed.
We made the horrid discovery Monday night. Dr. Gooch found some young hens needing a home on Craigslist and by Friday at 1pm we had six new chicks. Three black, three white. We hope they'll be laying eggs come Fall.
A Happy Ending.