Saturday, November 7, 2009
Nora missing, presumed dead
The lower edge of the chicken pen is double-reinforced on all sides. The netting over the top was secured after Nora found her way out the first time. I hooked down the netting over the gate whenever I opened and closed it. Still, she twice found a way out that the other chickens, even Edna the other Modern Game bantam, never discovered.
I'd find her in the yard near the pen or even running back and forth, wanting to get back in. Once out, a chicken never remembers where the exit was. I would open the gate, throw down scratch feed for the other hens and there would be Nora on the opposite side running back and forth along the fence until she finally found her way around to my side where the gate was open.
One morning I didn't know she was out. Everything had been rechecked and secured the day before; she couldn't possibly have escaped. But there she was. I saw her a second before Miro shot across the yard after her, one second too late to stop him. She flew up, paused on top of the fence, then took off.
It was pouring down rain and I knew from experience that I wouldn't find her in the bushes of the possible three yards she landed in. As before, she would have to find her way home that evening. But she didn't. Just before dusk I walked the perimeter of the yard, peering through the slits in the wood fence, listening carefully for any peep or rustle. Every moving shadow drew my attention. Nothing. When there was no sign of her the next morning, I guessed she was gone permanently.
What you know and what you feel can be two different things. I still check the yard before letting the dogs out. I stand beside the fence, listening for her distinctive sing-song peeping or any rustle of leaves. I run after the movement of something dark and discover it was only a leaf shifting in the wind. I feel guilty, though I know Nora's fate is typical for chickens. Few live out a full lifespan.
Now the symmetry is gone from the flock. There are two Polish hens, two Americauna, one bantam. From my upstairs study, I can see down to the pen and the fence behind it. Branches swaying in the wind or a squirrel running across the fence catches my attention and I lean toward the window to look, even though I know Nora has made her final escape.