|Lacy, our Golden Laced Wyandotte, was one of four hens taken.|
It appears that four of our hens were stolen. Gertrude, Marigold, Lacy, and Paprika are gone.
I’m not exactly sure what time they were taken. It had been a busy day yesterday, so we decided to run out and grab a quick bite for dinner. It was getting dark, and the ladies were all headed into the coop, so we herded them in, closed the coop door, then latched the run door, and left them for the evening as usual.
We were gone a couple of hours, and were busy getting the girls ready for bed, when K let the dogs out for the night, and we heard a cluck—which meant a chicken was out. And I knew they were supposed to be tucked in.
I ran downstairs, and K ran out to the coop to find the backyard gate (the one leading to the back alley), the run door, and the coop door all wide open. Only Oreo was in the coop.
After dark, chickens can’t see well. If left outside, they will hunker down and ride the night out where they are, because they can’t move. Once in the coop, they won't move from their roost until daylight. I ran for a flashlight, all the while wondering what could have happened. I knew the coop door and run were securely closed when we left for dinner. I was certain of it.
While K headed out to look for them, I checked around and under things. I found Clover half wedged but OK under the coop steps, picked her up, and put her on the roost with Oreo. The two little Bantams were fine.
I must have walked the yard four or five times, then the alley, garage, and front yard several times, before heading back past the patio. I heard a rustling under a privet bush, and shone my light to see Violet peering at me, then making a run for the coop in the light from the porch and my flashlight. I put her safely in the coop.
But it became pretty clear that someone (who likely saw us leave) had probably entered through the alley, grabbed the four biggest (and therefore meatiest) hens (probably tried to grab Violet, but she got away and hid in the yard), and disappeared with them. No predator would have opened the gates and doors, and there would have been a flurry of feathers to mark the event. I know they were all safely buttoned up for the night.
The girls were full of whys. Why would someone do that? They worried that whoever took them might not have carried them nicely, might have hurt them… I don’t think it seemed real to them that someone could have stolen them for food, and that they wouldn’t see them again.
It was a long night, and once the girls finally fell asleep, after many tears and questions, it was 3 a.m., and I couldn’t sleep. I sat downstairs and read, trying to stop my imagination from filling in details that we would never likely know.
I had worried that we would lose them to predators—raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, even dogs—but that a human predator would take them hadn’t occurred to me.
This morning, I watched it grow light, hoping to see a fluffy yellow hen standing at the gate, or walking along the alley. But the yard feels bare and empty. Violet and the two Bantams are warm in the coop, but I feel convinced that the other four are gone for good. I’m picking up locks today. I called the police, and walked the scene of the crime with an officer who knew as well as I did that there was really no way to know where they went. He felt certain someone took them for their meat.
He said it was the first time in our small town that a theft of chickens—or a theft of an animal of any kind—had been reported since the 40s. He suggested a motion sensor light, and said they’d have extra patrols go by in the wee hours just to keep an eye on things.
All good preventative measures, and appreciated, but small comfort in the face of the loss of four beloved hens.