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A million things go through your mind...

We had 19 chickens yesterday.  Tonight when I went around to tuck everyone in there were 10. 

There have been 2 foxes stalking us lately.  Farmer Dan ‘took out’ one of them after they’d poached 2 of our chickens (we won’t post pics as they were gruesome.  But suffice to say, the shotgun he used was loaded with “varmint buckshot"). Its an ongoing debate whether to keep free-ranging the chickens, or to have them in an enclosed outdoor pen.  Its such a joy to see the chickens come all the way up to the house each day and have complete free range.  They particularly love the horse poop (oh the fabulous goodies they find in there…yuck!).  But I have to believe they also love having no boundaries. Don’t we all? I suppose that’s my perhaps-too-liberal anamorphic interpretation.  Maybe its enough that they can eat well and survive.
Typically, for the evening chores, I feed/water/grain the goats, make sure the horses have water (they live outdoors 24/7 and have a big bale of hay in their round bale feeder), then feed/water and close in the chickens.  Tonight I found only 10 and my first thought was that the other 9 had been poached by the nasty remaining fox.  Sure made me feel lousy.  
For some reason, I took a minute to say goodnight to the horses who had wandered into the run-in in the barn.  And then I heard a subdued, but ‘group’ chicken noise.  It was some (but not all) of the missing chickens.  The horses (I’m willing to bet it was Fabeina) had found a way to shut the door to the chicken coop - which is in their paddock.  And so these chickens had been left out in the cold.  In every sense of the word.  I was totally thrilled - and can only imagine the relief those poor chickens felt.
So I scooped them up - one at a time, and put them back in their coop.  What would have ordinarily been a very chaotic, difficult job, was unbelievably easy.  My theory is - they knew they’d been saved.  And truthfully?  I was thrilled to have found them and been able to put them back in their coop so they can live at least another day.
- photo by Judy Anderson