Last night, I didn't get out to the Moop until dusk. I usually go out while the light is still pretty strong, but late enough that the chickens have begun hanging around. I fill their feeders and set them inside the Moop, and they hop in for their bedtime snack. If there is a hen still out and about, this ritual brings her running back home.
Last night dusk took me by surprise. Yes, the days are getting shorter, and it seems like it is happening in a hurry. It was dark enough when I went out that they were already roosting, not interested in a snack. I counted - only eight.
Buster was home, and Flopsy, the only hen I recognize because of her odd, floppy comb. But somebody was missing, and she wasn't interested in the sound of the lid clanging on their feed bin.
Some might say it's only a chicken, but No. 9 was gone and it bothered me. All of this happens on my watch, and I feel responsible. If I had come out a little sooner, I might have found her. One of the girls does spend a lot of time by herself and often comes running at the last minute. I'm not sure it is always the same hen, but I call her Missy.
"Missy, where have you been?" I say. "Missy, why are you here all by yourself?" I call out when I see a lone hen on the other side of the house. "Missy, go back with the others," I chide.
I went to the places I suspected she might be, calling "Here, Missy, time for bed!" First the garden - one occasionally flies in but then seems incapable of flying out - then I checked the garage, then remembered the barn door was open and went out there. No hen. I locked up the Moop and went dejectedly to bed.
This morning I hoped to see a hen waiting at the Moop. Nope, no Missy. I opened the door, moved their feeders outside and started to walk over to the barn to take care of the chicks. There she came, running across the yard! Who knows where she spent the night, but Missy is fine and back with the flock.