I was awakened, before dawn, this morning to the sound of a cackling chicken. It wasn’t the normal, “Hey, look at me, I just laid an egg!” happy cackle. It was louder and squawky-er. And, it wasn’t at the right time — it was still dark out. “Oh, no!” I thought, “I think the hens are in trouble”.
I jumped out of bed, hobbled, half-awake, over to the window and pulled back the shades to see what was going on. It was really dark. I thought I might be able to see the shadow of something moving, especially if it was large, like a coyote, but I couldn’t see much of anything.
About that time, Matt woke up and asked me what I was doing. “I think something’s got the chickens”, I told him. “I don’t think they got locked up last night.” (Locking up the chickens is one of the kids’ daily chores. Even after six months of living at our new homestead, it is still not a chore that the kids have gotten into the habit of doing. Every night I have to remind one of them to go do it. Unfortunately, last night, even I forgot).
Matt quickly pulled a flashlight out of his bedside drawer, opened the window, and shined it out onto the pen. “Do chicken’s eyes glow?” he asked. “I don’t know”, I said. But, I wasn’t going to stick around and take any more time to decide if they did or not. I started for the door when I heard Matt express his concern. “Hold on”, he said. “Let me get my gun.” Now, before you think his decision was a little hasty, let me tell you that wild coyotes are known to roam around these parts in packs. The creek that runs along the front side of our property is their main water source. In the past couple of months, they’ve killed chickens at two of our neighbor’s homes. I’ve seen their scat near the fence of our hen’s pen and, about a week ago, I saw a young one walking alongside the creek in front of our house. Matt wasn’t about to let him finish off our prized egg-layers! So, armed with a flashlight and a gun, we headed out to to the pen — Matt leading the way, of course.
As he approached the pen, he flashed the light all around, hoping to scare off whatever was inside. There was nothing there. Next, he searched around for the chickens. “Here’s one”, he said, shining the light on a heap feathers, “and there’s another. That’s two dead!” “Do you see anything else in there?” I shouted, never having left the safety of the front porch. “Oh!” He yelled back. “There’s one [chicken] walking around.” I decided to start making my way towards the pen. “What about inside the coop?” “Do you think whatever got ’em might still be in there?” I asked him. He walked over and shined the light all inside of the coop, but only saw two of our other hens, still roosting. Whatever had gotten the chickens was now gone. “Wait a minute!”, Matt exclaimed. ” What’s that moving over there?” It was one of the chickens that he thought was dead. Maybe it had just been playing dead, but now she was up and walking around. “She has no tail!”, he said. “I thought she was missing her head!” “Well, how many are there, then?” I asked. We counted them. Two outside of the coop, and two inside of the coop. That makes four. All accounted for. “Then, what’s that over there?” Matt asked as he walked over with the flashlight to check out what he thought was a dead hen. “Oh. It’s just a pile of feathers.” That must have been where the battle had taken place. Poor chicky — it was evident that she’d taken a pretty hard beating. Matt went over to where she was standing to see if he could determine the extent of her damage. She didn’t appear to be bleeding anywhere, or to have any gouges or cuts on her body. She did give out a small cry when Matt picked her up, but we didn’t know if it was because she was hurt or scared. We decided that there was nothing else we could do for her until the morning. Matt gently picked her up and carried her back to the coop, along with the other hen who was outside, and locked them back in the coop with the others.
When morning came, I went to take a closer look. Feathers were everywhere! Our little, attacked, hen was just standing in the corner, looking pretty dazed. Even with all of the feathers that she lost, she still looked pretty fluffy, except for her backside, which was completely bald!
I’ve read that chickens are pretty resilient. I hope it’s true. I hope she makes it through this and bounces back, as healthy as ever. We”ll be keeping a close eye on her in the meantime, though.
We may not ever know what kind of animal got into the coop last night. We don’t think it was a coyote, but a smaller animal, like a cat or a fox, and we are concerned that he will be back. So, tonight we’ll make sure that the girls are securely locked up in their coop and pen. The only sound I hope to hear coming from their pen, from this time forward, is the sound of a proud chick letting us know that she has breakfast waiting for us.