When the farmer let the hens out yesterday morning, one failed to emerge. On looking inside he found that one of our new 'point of lay' pullets had died overnight, so we were down to 5 new ones. Hens do have a nasty habit of dying for no apparent reason, but it is still sad as they were settling in so well.
The remaining 5, along with my old hens and my Buff Orpington cockerel, wandered around in the field all day, pecking about and generally enjoying themselves. If there was any bullying of the new ones I certainly didn't see it. Everything seemed fine.
When the farmer went to shut them in at dusk, the old hens and the cockerel were perched in their usual place. Of the new hens there was absolutely no sign. By this time it was almost dark.
So, suitably clad (it was cold and windy) we wandered around the yard with flash lights, calling them - not a sign. After half an hour of searching we found two of them perched on the straw. We caught them and put them in the hut and began to search again. After ten minutes or so we found another two - this time sitting in the tractor cab. One left - and there was no sign.
This morning there is still no sign of it. They have all been fed and are out again, so it looks as though one might have disappeared. I wondered about a marauding fox but the farmer says they are more
likely to be around in the very early morning.
I hope she turns up - it is so sad to lose one and not know where it has gone - but I fear we shall not see her again.
On a brighter note - a long-haired black and white tom cat seems to have adopted us as foster parents. Blackie and Creamy seem quite happy for him to be around and he is always there for food morning and evening, but won't allow us anywhere near him. Should he get tamer then perhaps we can catch him and take him to the vet to get him some injections - but that seems unlikely as the farmer says he doesn't seem to be a cat who has ever had a 'proper' home.
Who was it who said, "I am the cat that walks alone; all places are alike to me." ?
***Update. She has turned up and our worst fears were unfounded. She appears to have spent the night under the tractor and when the farmer started it up this morning she strolled out as though that was a normal place to take up residence.
As for the cat attacking her - the farmer doesn't think it would happen, particularly as the cat is well-fed (by us as he joins our two for their twice-daily feed).