A couple of weeks ago, L.E. was out of state and I was tending the chickens each evening. You may know that I *hate* birds.
But I kind of really love "our" hens. They're a hoot and they don't try to peck me or get too close and they lay delicious eggs.
About the third day L.E. was gone, I came home from work just as the sun was setting and noticed things were awry in the farm yard. Items that were normally stored to the south or east of the buildings were lying in the middle of the drive and the gate to the hens' pen was mostly closed, with the bar that normally holds it open lying on the ground next to it. Now, I know that the hens can't budge that metal bar, so something was not right in Paradise.
I quickly picked up the errant items and put them away before I want into the hens' pen. It looked like they had already tucked themselves in for bed, but since things were not quite right when I got home, I decided to open the coop to check them.
Uh, where's the third hen?
Crap. I always worried when L.E. went away that I'd lose one of her hens to a critter. I stood there in their pen looking around and it dawned on me that we'd probably had a microburst while I was at work. The microburst would account for things being out of place and the gate being partially closed, despite the metal bar that normally holds it open. I dared to hope that the hen had roosted somewhere else and set out on a walk-about the property to find her.
Twenty minutes later, I gave up and hoped that she'd found herself some place nice and secure to hole up for the night. When Jay came home, I told him that we were missing one of the hens and said that the best place she could have roosted would be in the horses' hay. I'd looked around their round bale, but didn't see anything, but it was getting dark and she's a red hen, so I might have missed her.
About one a.m. I was awakened by loud, continuous banging. At first I thought it was the horses kicking the round feeder, but the noise wasn't quite right for that. I figured they'd stop in a few minutes and tried to get back to sleep. The horses were having none of it.
I listened for snorting and running, but it seemed to be quiet out there except for the banging. Whatever those horses were doing, they weren't panicked. I finally dragged myself out of bed and put on my glasses so I could peer out the window.
I couldn't see Copper, but I saw Skeeter walking around the pen with something in her mouth. "Aw crap, that better not be the hen. Wait ... that's way to big to be a hen. What the hell is in her mouth? Did they stomp a coyote to death?" Since I had no idea what she was swinging around, I slid into my clothes, grabbed a flashlight and headed out to see what they were doing.
By the time I got out to the pen, Skeeter had dropped whatever she had been playing with and met me at the fence.
"Hey Mom, whatcha doin' up?"
"What the hell, Skeets? It's the middle of the night, what are you guys doing?" I shined the light around the pen and found what she had been swinging around - their big rubber feed tub - but it didn't account for the sound of hooves on metal. I kept shining the light around the pen until I saw a reflection in the middle of the pen that didn't belong there.
"Copper, really?" The water baby had dumped the metal water trough and kicked it all over the pen. In his defense, I knew they were low on water and had intended to fill it when I got distracted by the missing hen, then I forgot. It wasn't empty, but it was low. The big red horse decided that the middle of the night would be a good time to play with the trough and that was that.
Cussing under my breath, I dragged the trough back to where it belonged and started to fill it. Even with the hydrant wide open, it was taking forever to fill, so I thought I'd wander around the round bale and see if the missing hen had roosted there. Sure enough, she had burrowed herself into the hay and was practically invisible. I stood there, flashlight shining on her, contemplating whether or not I should try to move her to the coop.
Skeeter ambled over, looked at me, looked at the hen and lowered her head, "Mom, we're having a sleep over. Leave her alone, we got this." And with that, the big black horse ushered me back to the water trough. As soon as she was certain I was going to stay at the trough, she took up a guard position near the hen. She guarded the little red hen in the same manner she stands guard over Copper when he's flat-out.
All I could do was laugh at the goofy mare, finish filling the water trough, and go back to bed.
The next morning, all of the hens were back together as though nothing happened.