The wind was kicking last night, and the doors to the chickens' run and the duck and goose houses were all closed. I went out at 7:00 to put everyone in and do my nightly head count. I reopened the doors to the houses and the ducks and geese went on it. I turned to go check the chickens, and found three of my girls sitting on the run's outer wall looking like "Oh CRAP!". The door to the run was shut, and they didn't know what to do, so they roosted as best they could.
I picked the girls up, one by one, and put them in the house. Then I went in to do the head count and I noticed that they were very quiet. One thing about chickens (at least my chickens, I can't speak for anyone else's) is that when I check them at night, they are always singing. It's a quiet song, more like a melodic "purr" than a chirp or vocalization. It's a back of the throat thing. Anyway, they weren't doing it. And the atmosphere was that something bad had happened.
Ok, I know, stop right there. Just how crazy am I that I know what my chickens are thinking? I don't. But I spend enough time with them and watch them enough that I can sense their collective mood, if that makes sense. If that makes me crazy, then so be it. I'd prefer to think it makes me a really good farmer.
Anyway, it was the atmosphere that something bad had happened--just like after the dog attack and we had lost a girl. Same sort of quiet unease. So I noticed it and put it in the back of my head and did the count. And I was missing one. So I counted again, because they tend to shuffle a little and some hide under others' wings and such, so I may have miscounted. But no, still missing one.
Then I realized the missing one was Perni, the leader of the flock. That's bad, really bad. He's a good boy, gentle, patient, and he watches out for those girls like no one's business. Unlike Peter, the love 'em and leave 'em guy who doesn't really watch out for anyone but himself, Perni is a tried and true gentleman. He was missing, and they knew their protector was gone.
I immediately went out looking, thinking "It's pitch black, how the hell am I going to find him? If I don't, can he make it until the morning? " Then I remembered the time one of the hens got locked out of the coop--she went into the duck house and roosted on the ground in there. I looked in the duck house. Nope. Lots of terrified ducks, but no Perni. So I thought, maybe he went into the goose house. I looked through the window. The geese were all clustered on the other side of the house, away from me. Unusual, since they never miss an opportunity to heckle me at any time, and the Africans LOVE to come and lower their heads at me and threaten. I looked down, but didn't see anything. I was about to turn away when I caught a glimpse of a red comb. He was right under the window, in the blind spot.
Yeay! I opened the door to pull him out, ungracefully, I might add. I was heckled the entire time, which was helpful--geese never miss an opportunity to criticize and jeer. Maybe this time they were cheering, though, since they are terrified of Perni (which is pretty funny, if you think about it). I tucked him under my arm and walked him back to the coop. He complained the entire way. Did I hear a story! I got all the details about how he couldn't get home, and it was dark, and all he could do was hide out in the smelly goose house and wait, and how could I let that happen? What kind of place is this? And so on and so on.
Anyway, I got him back to the coop and as soon as I walked through the door with him you should have heard the chatter! Everyone going on at once, just chatting away, now that he was back. It was hilarious. They knew they were safe once again.
Chickens are funny, funny creatures, aren't they? Not that I'd ever forget what personalities they have, but every once in a while, I love to share a story that shows exactly how funny they can be.