There must have been a night of terror last week. We arrived to find feathers all over the yard and two of the chooks – the two Andalusians, Andy and Lucia – missing. On closer inspection, the feathers were black, or grey. Some were fluffy, like down, like feathers that must have been on their bellies. Others were bigger, like quills – they must have been the wing feathers – the feathers that we should have clipped a few weeks ago to keep them in their run.
They discovered that they could fly out of the run about a month ago. First it was just Bub, fluttering heavily up onto the gate, swaying there and waiting for a partner. Once Andy joined her they were away, jumping down into the garden and gradually exploring further and further afield. Bib and Lucia soon joined the escapees, leaving the two old aunties (whose wings were clipped last year, and who have never realised that their wing feathers have regrown) to enjoy the run of the run, just like old times. The wanderers grew bolder, staying out longer, venturing further, until we woke one morning to hear the pleasant sound of smug chooks and saw a little cavalcade of the four of them trotting down the hill to the happy lands of the onion seedlings, just waiting to be scratched up.
But Andy and Lucia – who were always slightly stupider – had trouble getting back into the run, and would scurry up and down the outside of the fence looking for a way in long after Bib and Bub had returned to the fold. Maybe one night they just gave up and settled down somewhere near the house, maybe on the porch. Telltale smears of blood on two of the glass doors conjure tragic images of terrified chooks trying to find safety.
Now Bib has gone broody, sitting in a half-comatose state all day on the two plastic eggs and any other real eggs that she can steal from the nesting boxes, leaving only the canny Bub to come and go as she pleases.