Never believe any 'authoritative' literature that claims a fox hunts only in early morning and early evening and night. They hunt at noon as well.
I had an eye appointment yesterday, which is a different story. My eye doctor always dilates the eye, which is not fun for the rest of the day, especially at this time of year. Knowing that I would be gone in the morning hunting hours, I left the girls in the permanent run with its higher and safer fence. When I came back at noon, they were all there, all ten. The wounded one was out with the others. As it was noon and there was little shade in the main run, I opened the temporary run for them. Still fenced in. I couldn't see very well at that point, everything was mostly glare, but I drove home 30 miles and could count chickens. If you've had this dilation done, you know the main thing you want is a nice, dark room for a few hours. So I went inside and lay down.
I heard the girls, no more than a half hour later.
I went back down and took a look. One was inside the coop and wouldn't come out. The rest were milling around and sounding distressed. And the count was wrong. No matter how many times I did it, the count was wrong.
Ten little indians all in a line
One flew the fence and then there were nine...
Feathers. Two piles of feathers down in the corner near the fence, around a tree. About 50 feet away from the run and on the far side of the property, almost to the neighbor's field.
Dear reader, we all know who flies the fence, don't we?
I felt sick. I couldn't be sure when I looked over the girls. My brain didn't want to register this. Not my girl. Not my brave, bright girl whom I had fed raspberries in my kitchen the day before. I put the girls back into the permanent run and shut that gate. No tears, just a sense of dread. I had to take E to gymnastics in the afternoon, pick her up from school, move on with daily life. I counted them one more time and still came up with nine. The thought in my head was that we should have left Anya's body for the fox. It might have kept them from coming back so soon. An offering.
The day moved on. When we returned at dinnertime, I couldn't go down to the run. I couldn't face another loss, couldn't face adding another couplet to the rhyme. I knew I should blog the events, but I couldn't. I couldn't put it down in black and white. The one time writing failed me.
When the Dude finally got home (different story) I told him I just couldn't face it. He went down, checked them over, made them a puddle, came up and shook his head. No. He was pretty sure she wasn't there. E went down, discovered the feathers for the first time (she had been engrossed in a computer game the day before). I hadn't told her we'd lost another. She was behind the barn in the garden. I yelled for her to come up and eat dinner, which was now quite cold. When she came up, we discovered she had left the pump handle up because she's not strong enough to push it all the way off yet. The Dude put his sandals back on and went to turn it off.
POV shift for brevity.
As he came back up the hill to the house, a chicken walked toward him from the direction of the laurels under my office window, from the direction of the safety under the deck, coming down toward her god, toward her coop. A very bedraggled, tired bird with two spots behind her comb and missing a lot of feathers. He picked her up and snuggled her into god's arm, brought her up to Olympos to drink and break bread with the gods. My brave girl had escaped a fox and run/flown to safety, across 3 acres or so. She had stayed there until her yard was filled with the sounds of gods instead of death. And then she had come out to be rescued in the evening, in the hours when we could still see her, before we had sadly shut the coop for the night and left her out there alone with the hunters unintentionally.
The three of us carried her down to her coop and placed her inside. The other girls congregated inside while it was still light and we shut the hatch, counting three times, four times. Ten. Over and over again. Still ten. Not nine, not eleven. Ten.
She is the most remarkable bird.