We've been a chicken family for exactly six months as of yesterday. Six months which included brooding baby chicks and chasing crazy-fast guineas and introducing a chicken mama and counting down to eggs.
In our short time, we've learned to say goodbye. First to the pasty-butt chick who was so sick and frail that she couldn't get up on her legs. Then to the guineas who simply didn't belong in a neighborhood. Our hearts broke when dogs dug into our backyard and killed our girl Stella, the black star who was the first to earn the title of pet.
After ten broilers, four chicks, two guineas and one Here's Your Last Chance Fancy Don't Let Me Down, we had settled into our flock of three: Lulu2, Maisy, and Fancy. They traveled as group during the day though they roosted in separate places at night (Fancy in a tree, Lulu2 and Maisy in the coop until Maisy turned traitor and went to sleep in the tree with Fancy).
But, as is the nature of life for a chicken, our triad has been broken. We lost Maisy this week. She was the youngest, the weakest, the follower.
Tragically, her survival skills weren't as advanced as the other girls'. From what we can figure, Maisy was trapped in a corner of the yard by a cat. We buried her feathers and pieces in our burgeoning chicken cemetery along our property perimeter.
There were none of the tears that came when Stella was killed. We have toughened up, as you do when you're raising chickens. We're adjusting yet again. We've decided the chickens can't free range, no matter how much we all like it. And, yes, the BB gun will have to come out for cats now, too. And so it goes.
But there's always a bright spot in this tunnel. Today, while preparing the yard for Javi's birthday party, my mountain man stumbled upon these under our deck:
I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. Lulu2 is an official layer. We know they can't be Maisy's eggs because her comb was still chalky pink, not vibrant red like Lulu2's (and Fancy lays her eggs in the nesting box). And while I can't figure out why these chickens don't just behave (you know, like roosting in the coop instead of trees and laying eggs in the nesting boxes rather than on the ground under the deck), I'm delighted to watch them grow and exhibit their unique personalities.
UPDATE: Mountain man found 5 more eggs under there! That's 10 eggs total. Here's the crazy part: We think Fancy switched her laying location and egg production isn't actually off at all. Some of the eggs are Fancy's large ones and some are Lulu's small ones. These chickens love to keep us guessing!
We miss seeing the three reds nibbling their way around the yard, but there's always new life and new experiences. Lulu2 and Fancy may have new girls to play with in the spring (since egg production is off for the winter), and our hearts will swell just as strongly as they always do.