If I could get my chickens to talk, what a lot of tales I would have from the past two days. Now if I could just arrange that...
They could tell me why some (or all? or one of them?) chose to gang up on poor Chaos the hen (named after her exploits upon her first arrival at the farm) and peck off most of her tail feathers, leaving her vent (that's where the eggs come out) exposed and really quite disgusting looking. So, though I was planning to leave early to meet the choir at their first gig of the day, instead I was picking up a messy chicken while R and A brought over a dog kennel and put in shavings so Chaos could have a little isolation time. From what I've read if we had left her there, the others would peck at her until she died. So, in her little home with food and water, she seems bored but otherwise content.
Then we went off to the afternoon and evening party (which was AMAZING!!! hundreds or people and lots of new contacts in the community), and I left the other seven hens out free-ranging. We've left them out lots of times and they very diligently go back to roost at bedtime.
So, assuming this interrogation could take place, I could find out why NONE of the seven returned to the roost. I came home after dark to find an empty coop. Not good. A walk around with flashlight yielded no results, so I went to bed feeling very stupid for having left them out and very worried for their safety. We do have coyotes, raccoons, weasels, skunks, and many others who'd love a chicken dinner. I slept very little last night and around 12:30am heard what definitely sounded like a chicken squawking; a run outside didn't reveal anything except some more noise but D very kindly joined me to see if we could trace any of them. Back to bed, with visions of the hens out there getting picked off one by one. Yeah, they're just chickens, but I felt responsible for their little chickeny lives. At 3:00am I heard more clucking, this time close to the house. I ran downstairs and sure enough the flashlight showed one trotting to the house from the field. Rather than being happy at my attempts to get her back to safety, she screamed bloody murder until I had her in my arms; then she seemed to realize that this was a good thing and was calm right away.
I got up at first light (that's about 4:30 this time of year) and went outside to find two more hunkered down at the edge of the long grass; later I found two more near the coop. So, as of 6am, there are 6 hens accounted for and back in their coop. And I found one definite spot near the coop where a hen was attacked by something (trail through the grass and a blob of feathers), and one other possible in the direction of the first squawking we heard last night. So while I hope there's another survivor out there who managed to slip away, it seems that that's the end of the story.
For some strange reason I am tired.