Having a single flock of free-ranging birds (12 guinea fowl and 2 chickens) regularly establishes exactly why we DON'T free range our egg-laying flock.
Tuesday night, James raced into the house with a seemingly incoherent account of birds, dogs, and missing ears. I asked him to be quiet as the baby was asleep, not really registering his actual words, and he said, "She's missing. I need you outside right now."
J&J's bird dog had escaped her leash. Again. Another neighbor's son, seeing the dog headed for our yard, tried to get his dog to distract the dog. Even in writing that sounds like a bad plan, and it was even worse in reality. Their dog, Sophie, is loathed and despised by Hope. J&J's dog and Sophie went after our guinea flock. James saw one bird at least potentially dismembered, then Hope went after Sophie and tore off part of her ear (and, might I confess, later went back to the field of battle and ate said missing ear after we couldn't find it?). James traversed the neighborhood in search of the neighbor's errant bird dog.
And that, my friends, was the beginning of a two hour search for my birds. I was initially able to locate 11 guineas, no chickens. All appeared to be uninjured. After another 15 or so minutes, I found Darkest Winter, our gimpy chicken, hiding behind the barn. She was uninjured. After another 20-30 minutes, I found 12 guineas huddled on the neighbor's roof. No Stew.
Stew's feathers littered our yard like a rained out TP party. Searching, searching, searching with a sick feeling in my stomach. I really didn't want to find a bird bloodied and needing to be euthanized, nor did I really want to find a dead bird. Finding a live, healthy chicken seemed to be an impossibility.
James eventually came back and joined the search. He invited neighbor boys with a bribe of money to help.
Still, given my record at finding things, I finally found Stew. Alive. Unbloodied. Missing a lot of feathers, but otherwise okay. She had hidden herself in a clump of decorative grasses and looked like an old weathered log.
Poor girl. James is right. Is this poor chicken lucky to have survived or unlucky to get picked on so much?
Until next time, remember, this is not paradise. It's Purgatory Ranch.
P.S. She had finally started to lay eggs again. I'm thinking she'll have stopped again for quite a while.