I didn't know how attached I had become. Until the day (and night) the hens flew the coop.
It was our first day home after our trip. I woke up at 6:00 AM with heartburn. On my way back from the bathroom I saw them waddling down their ramp from a nice night's sleep. By the afternoon, Dr. Gooch announced they were no where to be found. No where. He had even hopped on his bike and scoured the neighborhood.
He declared them lost or eaten or both. First lost, then eaten probably, he said.
"Just wait. They'll come home tonight", I confidently countered. And I believed it. But after no sign all evening then a midnight check to find an empty coop, I resigned myself to the fact that after careful raising into adulthood, feeding, and waiting for eggs, our attempt had turned foul.
I was truly sad. Not angry or upset, just really sad. Lucy was too. She confessed to me today that she was "just as sad as you, Mom. The saddest I've ever been." We felt a void. Had I really grown to love these odd, smelly birds?
Then, as we were rounding up rascals for a trip to the pool, Dr. Gooch glanced out back with a new announcement, "They came back!!" Hooray. Relief and happiness. We ran out welcoming them home with handfuls of stale Cheerios and wheat berries.
Still, the mystery remains. Where had they gone. "It was their last hurrah out on the town before they start devoting a lifetime to laying", I offered. They had embarked on an overnight "avian adventure" as one friend suggested. And that is something we solid-boned featherless types would not understand.
Then, tonight, before it got completely dark, that time of night when you can still see the bat silhouettes flitting overhead, I ran out to the coop, just to be sure. Again, they were no where to be seen. But, I heard, very close by, those familiar clucks. I scanned under the grape arbor and beyond the fence. Just when I was turning back to the house to fetch a flashlight...
I looked up.
They are birds, after all.