It may have had something to do with the math homework my daughter insisted she did not have or her sudden amnesia on how to spell just about anything. It may have also had something to do with the report my son left until the last minute. We had to eat dinner on our laps last evening as the kitchen table was covered with his poster, glue, scissors, and other various paraphernalia that a fourth grader needs to make a poster about weather disasters.
Once we'd finished eating, it came to us: The Chickens!
When I opened the door to their run earlier that afternoon, they over-powered me. I was nearly trampled by four eager, sunlight-and-freedom-deprived chickens. They just came rolling out like bowling balls one after the other, not about to be turned around. There was no stopping them. When I saw how happy they were to be running sideways and scratching around the yard, I decided to leave them out to roam free for a while. I left the dog out with them to ward off any hawks.
At some point, somehow, the dog made it back inside without my consent. He is refusing to answer questions.
My husband went out to round up the chickens and found them asleep, in a heap, on the bench. The doors to their coop had blown shut. They looked so funny all piled up. We took a picture (which didn't turn out because it was dark) and then speculated that Violet, the littlest chicken, must be on the very bottom -- always her favorite spot.
We began dismantling the the feathery mound: First, Crocus; then, Daisy, and then Daffodil. They were all sound asleep, barely aware of being moved into their coop. But there was no Violet. The littlest chicken was not in her usual spot at the bottom of the pile, "under all the covers." Not good.
Soon, a full-fledged search was underway. Even the fourth grader was allowed to leave his post -- the kitchen table -- and take up a flashlight to join the search for our little bantam Seabright.
Here's the little offender last fall (and the fourth grader, too).
Even Crocus, the queen chicken, was out in her enclosed run, watching, unsettled. She's such a good "mama chicken."
Violet is a character. She is a needy little girl while at the same time being of her own mind. When all the other girls run to catch the spillage when I feed my pigeons, Violet hangs back and waits -- the only one to realize that they get new food right after I feed the pigeons. She also knows where the winter bird feeders are and always cleans up under them for us. None of her sisters are on to this information. But come bedtime, Violet -- ever the dainty little girl -- makes her bed under big, fluffy, cochin Daisy. They agreed on this arrangement back when they were chicks. Violet always sleeps under Daisy. So when nightfall came and Violet was not with her sisters, we were extremely worried.
We looked everywhere. My husband turned over every bench, every table. My son checked through all the foliage, all the vines. My daughter was stripped of her Halloween flashlight that makes an evil laughing sound and sent in the house for repeatedly activating the sound-effect and impeding our listening for any sound from Violet. We all participated in our own way.
Eventually, we had to come back inside. My son had to finish his poster. My daughter had to go to bed. Once both kids were in bed, my husband went out to look again. Crocus was still out, keeping vigil. But no Violet. Eventually, we had to go to bed. We told ourselves she must have squeezed under the deck behind the lattice; she would be safe for the night. It took us over an hour to convince ourselves of this unlikelihood so that we could drift off to sleep.
My husband awoke before sunrise and convinced me to head back outside with him. He reasoned we should be out there when daylight broke so we could help her out of whatever situation she had gotten into before she panicked. I was not so optimistic, but I went with him.
We came outside. Crocus was still out, but standing now and speaking in a quiet, unusual voice. Then we heard a faint, distressed little chicken voice. Violet!
She had gotten herself up in the neighbor's tree! Poor little thing must have been 15 feet off the ground. The best we can figure, she hopped onto the bench, then to the potting bench, then to the fence, then onto the neighbor's playhouse (which is irksomely close to our fence!), and then a quick flutter into the tree. Poor little girl was out there all alone all night long.
We awoke our resident tree climber -- fourth graders come in awfully handy sometimes, as do fathers who can hoist them over the fence -- who got as close as he could in the tree and tried to coax her toward him. Poor, nervous Violet didn't seem to know what to do or how to get down. Eventually, she flew down in my husband's direction. He scooped her up and returned her to her sisters.
What a night. What a relief!
I had thought we'd lost little Violet for good. Now she's back with her sisters, eating and squawking . . . and SO grounded!