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It is with a heavy heart that I write this: we lost a chicken this week. The circumstances are hazy, but the prevailing theory at the moment is that the raccoon finally got to them. Friday morning I got the coop in good working order after a few days of doing just the minimum because it’s been really rainy here. The chickens were fine and I got a chance to pause and enjoy their waddle (not their wattle, because they don’t have those yet.) But they do kind of sway from side to side as they run in an endearing way.

In any case, when the kids came home, they couldn’t find the chickens. So I came out to help, and sure enough they were right by the patio eating bugs under a bush. But there were three. They always stick together, so this was a warning sign. We walked the property to see what we could find, but there was no sign of number 4.

The kids reported seeing a raccoon in the neighbor’s yard. I was skeptical, because I’ve never seen a raccoon in the daytime unless it was injured. And we all know that rabid raccoons might be around in the daytime. They described the raccoon’s behavior as normal (they saw him running away, which gave them a good view of his ringed tail), so I reminded them about avoiding wild animals and we searched on.

At some point I thought it would be a good idea to look around the neighborhood. There had been a pretty serious car crash on our corner, and I was curious to know what had happened. There were lots of fire trucks still there, and I figured we could get close enough to get a general idea without being in danger or seeing anything too scary. I realized I didn’t have my cell phone on me, and when I got it, there was bad news.

My husband had texted me that the chicken was dead. Apparently our neighbor had seen their dog with the dead chicken in its mouth and decided to call my husband at work. I guess he realized I was with the children and didn’t want to tell me in person. He’s married to the Eastern European-accented woman who told us about one of our other chicken’s untimely death. (She’s was born a princess, by the way, who left her native Bulgaria during when the Monarchy was dissolved in 1946. I realized something was up when we got her mail by mistake and it was addressed to HRH). But the husband has more of a continental accent, the kind that makes me think he’s in a velvet jacket with an ascot and a pipe every time he calls. Maybe with a monocle and a scotch. But I digress.

In any case, I think the chickens can’t get out of the fence. When they were a little younger, they could slip through the holes, but I think they are too big for that now. They aren’t really flying at all (when our last chickens were full grown, we had to clip their wings every so often because otherwise they could fly over the fence), so that’s not it. I’m thinking the kids were probably right about the raccoon, and maybe the raccoon got it and took it into our neighbor’s yard, where the dog scared it away and got the chicken. Or maybe the chicken slipped through the fence and paid for that mistake with her life.

We’re all a little blue about it here, but it’s not the same as if a more domesticated pet died. We had long ago lost track of who was Lemon and who was Sunshine. My son would rather we not have chickens anymore to spare the pain of losing them, but my teenage daughter feels that living a life without risk is guaranteeing no reward. Or “That’s like saying we shouldn’t have any friends because they might die.” Dangerous territory indeed.

Here are some shots of Lemon (or Sunshine) through the weeks of her life.

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