As usual, after I came home from work, ate and showered, and The Girl and I prepared to go upstairs for lessons and reading before bed. Oh wait, I said – we need to put the chickens to bed first.
We close up the coop every night to protect them against predators and the cold, and every night they are sitting on the perch like a row of fat songbirds. Tonight, of course, four new arrivals were settling in.
We counted birds and stopped at six. Counted again. Again, the other way. Rechecked the number we should have – two hens from before, one cockerel, four new additions ….
When you checked the chickens this afternoon, did you count them? I asked.
“There were seven of them, Daddy,” she said. “I’m absolutely sure.”
I looked around the run. Looked up into the trees, wondering how ambitious chickens could get. Lifted The Girl on my shoulders to check the roof. Walked all around the area.
“She’s gone, Daddy!” The Girl said, sounding as panicked as I felt.
Could a fox have – let’s see – climbed onto the shed, leapt down into their area and grabbed a bird? In broad daylight, with no one hearing anything? And how did it get out?
Could some of the itinerants – the ones our neighbours said killed and ate their ducks – have grabbed her? But why take only one?
We had just given up and were going inside when, just to say we had tried everything – I grabbed a long stick and, as The Girl and I kneeled, we ran it through the sliver of open space underneath the coop.
“BWAAAAK!” came the sound from deep inside.
She had burrowed several feet under the floorboards of the coop itself.
After much poking from different sides, we got her out, and The Girl cuddled her and gently set her back with the others.
“We’ve discovered a new species of chicken!” The Girl said. “The world’s first burrowing chicken!”