Warning: some fowl language content.
Our daughter has piano lessons on Friday afternoons so we don’t get home from school pick up until close to 5pm. By then, the dinner preparations are pretty urgent. Today, I had at least decided on the meal but had had to purchase a few items while daughter was in piano lesson so the preparation was still to go.
It had been a very wet afternoon so we all took our shoes off as we entered the house and I had put on my slippers. As I began the task of preparing the meal, I realized that it was completely dark outside and that the chooks (Australian vernacular for adult chickens) hadn’t yet been shut in their yard. I asked the kids to go and shut the gate (by dark they have normally put themselves to bed).
A few minutes later the kids came back and told me that the chooks were all in a pile outside the chicken yard, trying to keep warm against the garage wall. At this point (with dinner still my most pressing job) I interrupted P (who was responding to work emails) and asked him to go and help put the chooks to bed. P immediately leapt to help. Unfortunately, as the kids poured out the door after him, the dog also got out and decided it would be fun to chase some terrified, wet, half-asleep chickens around the yard a few times.
We got the dog back inside and I turned the stove off, put my boots back on, and headed out to assist with rounding up the poor little bedraggled creatures. I felt so bad. It turned out the yard gate had blown shut and the poor little mites were locked out on this cold, wet evening.
P got four back into the yard fairly quickly (well, one was broody and had never left). But there were still two missing. We hunted for quite a while and one australorp suddenly appeared from somewhere in the ivy under the trampoline. We almost got her into the yard but she panicked at the last minute and yelled and fussed and scampered away. The poor thing looked so distraught. By this time lights were on everywhere and the garage door was open. Miss A wandered in there. We decided to give her some peace for a while and I sprinkled some cracked corn on the floor (it’s meant to be warming) and shut the garage door while we hunted for the last one.
We hunted and hunted. I remembered Mum telling me about how well her chooks can hide in the grass tussocks. So I kicked through ivy (gently), dived into the sodden rosemary bush, swept my hand under the bookleaf pine… but no scared black bundle hurtled out. Eventually we decided to give up for the time being. We opened the garage door and found Miss A still wandering about just as disconsolately as before. We tried to herd her but P ended up catching her by throwing a drop sheet over her and then grabbing her tail as she attempted escape. The poor thing crowed like she was being murdered, all the way to the coop. I opened the nesting box and he gently delivered her to her friends. She quietened fairly quickly.
We decided Miss S (the last silkie) would have to wait until after dinner. We left all the lights on and headed inside, hoping to see her wandering out in search of her tribe. As we cooked dinner and sat down with the kids to eat, we kept cheerful but inside we were both pretty anxious about the little missing hen. We actually had lovely conversation over dinner. It was somewhat unreal what a lovely family time it was.
But, as soon as we’d eaten, although my one hour alarm hadn’t rung yet, P and I were keen to get out and renew our search. We decided (perhaps crazily) to take the dog with us in the hope that his sensitive little nose would unseat Miss S. But his nose was far more interested in the handsome dingo next door.
While I was playing my torch somewhat wishfully (silkies really don’t fly) into the boughs of next door’s lemon tree, hoping to see a sad black bundle there, a sudden crowing started. That same terrified yelling as Miss A had made. P and had found her!!
I ran to open the nesting box for him. He slipped her in, still yelling. The hens in the coops clucked comfortingly at her but all she could say was “Fuuuuuck! Fuuuuuck! Fuuuuuuck!” for a good 30 seconds.
P showed me where he’d found her – in a tiny clump of Ivy against one of the fences. We’d both walked past her multiple times and never seen her. I don’t know how he did see her but we were so relieved to have all our crazy little mohawk friends back in their coop. We’ll have to be more vigilant about getting them to bed before dark from now on.
Inside, our son was riffing on his drums and our daughter was accompanying him on violin. All was peace.