Thursday, December 14, 2017

The story I've been meaning to tell you for three months

Once upon a time, as in three months ago, I was deep in the throes of taking care of two sick donkeys. I was preoccupied and more than a little sleep-deprived. Friends were checking in regularly via email, and one of the chains went like this:
Danni: Good morning. How's it going down there?
Me: George is feeling better. Lucy's about the same. And I think Johnny ate 12.
Danni: I'm happy for the good news about George, hoping so hard that Lucy is a lot better tomorrow, and wondering what Johnny ate "12" of.
Me: I can't stop laughing. Johnny ate 12, as in 10 and 11.
Danni: Omg, that wasn't the response I was expecting. I thought you were so exhausted that you just forgot to finish your sentence.
Anyway, the previous evening, I was in the infirmary pen underneath Lucy, when out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw JohnnyCashCat chasing something across the front yard. A second glance told me that "something" was actually a chicken, which made no sense at all because JCC is terrified of the chickens. By the time I was done treating Lucy it was almost dark, but I went on a search-and-rescue/recovery mission in the yard, looking for a probably-dead chicken and a seriously-in-trouble cat. 

I found the cat sitting on the porch. I did not find a chicken, a pile of feathers, or anything else that might otherwise serve as evidence of a henocide. I did find Peach, Minnie, Lady Mary, Mrs. Hughes, 10 and 11 in the chicken coop and deduced that it was 12 who went missing. Just call me Sherlock. Surely 12 must be hiding under a bush somewhere and would turn up by morning. 

She didn't. WTF? 

I didn't have the time or energy to investigate further or even be too upset. All my attention remained focused on Lucy and George.

The next morning, it seemed a little quieter than normal in the yard when I went out to deliver medicine. "The chickens must be lying low, with one of their sisters missing," I thought, right up until the time I took attendance and couldn't find Minnie or Mrs. Hughes. In my attention-diverted state, I concluded they must be hiding under the same bush as 12 and would emerge momentarily.

They didn't. WTF? 

Then the vet called with the worst news ever and I didn't give a thought to missing chickens or anything else until the next morning, when it was even quieter in the yard. Now Lady Mary and 11 were missing, too. 

It was time to confront the fact that something was picking off my chickens, two at a time at that, in the middle of the night. It had to have walked up the ladder to the coop, been small enough to fit through a 10" square opening, quiet enough so as not to cause a ruckus and wake up she-who-never-misses-anything Smooch, and clever enough to haul off five chickens without a stinkin' trace. 

I ruled out JCC as a suspect, since his m.o. is to eat the best parts of his kills and leave the remains under my office window as gifts. The incident where I thought I saw JCC chasing 12? Upon reflection, I now believe the real perpetrator was chasing them both. Plus, JCC was still afraid of the two survivors (Peach and 10) and they weren't afraid of him. All I could do was implement a new "latch the coop door every night" policy and hope that whatever was lurking in the dark didn't have opposable thumbs.

Also, I bought a motion-activated trail camera and placed it where it might spot an intruder.


The camera captured my deputies on the daytime shift.


It even captured Peach peeking out the window on the night shift.


Most of the time, it captured pictures like this, and after a few weeks, I finally turned it off.

So here we are three months later, and the mystery of the five missing chickens remains.
The coop gets latched every night. Peach and 10 have become BFFs. I have to buy eggs.

Come spring, I'll get more chickens. 



And all of us will remain forever vigilant.