It was the thing I knew we had to be ready for if we were going to have chickens. We live next to a field. We have seen foxes in the field. We knew what we were up against.
But when my daughter came running in the house one evening this week after going out to tuck the chickens in for the night, with a pale face and an alarmed voice, I knew that moment had arrived: “I can’t find Bunty, I need help to find Bunty!”
“Not Bunty!” I thought. Our favourite! Bunty is the one who runs up to us when we come in the garden, scratches around near our feet when we’re gardening, clucks and purrs near us when we’re just sitting on the grass, as if joining in and telling us all the news in the garden since we were last there.
We all dropped what we were doing and rushed out in the twilight to look for the little white hen. I was preparing myself for a cluster of feathers as we sometimes see when a pigeon has got to the end of its days, assisted by a local omnivore. Poor Bunty. I was feeling a bit ill at the thought of it.
We walked up and down the long garden, calling out for her (she comes when called). We walked along the field, we walked along the road, we walked and called everywhere we could think of. Finally, everyone went inside and my daughter and I walked down the garden again. By this time she had been crying and calling so long that her voice was getting croaky. I was trying to say a gentle version of “we knew this might happen” but it was too soon and I was told off. I was upset too but I was trying really hard to not be. And I was really annoyed, worried that perhaps we had done something to jeopardise Bunty’s life. I was also very distressed seeing my daughter so upset.
I wished we hadn’t even got the stupid things.
I told her to wash her face and get a drink and that we could read our new books together. I was keen to get both our minds off the disapperance of Bunty and the logical conclusion our imaginations might come to–something gorey and unpleasant. After reading a while it was time for bed so I tucked her in and her parting words were, “she might turn up in the morning.” Yes, I said, she might.
I went to bed but woke at 3.30 am with a dream about Bunty. I lay there getting more and more wound up, thinking about what kind of awful end she may have come to. Annoyed with myself for letting the whole thing get to me so much, I got up to read my book downstairs. Husband woke at 5.30 and came down. “I can’t sleep when you’re not there.” We decided to make some coffee and go out into the garden before our daughter got up so we could find any Bunty remains and get rid of them.
We got to the gate and a little white hen came running towards us from the undegrowth. I can honestly say I stood with my mouth open for long enough to look ridiculous. Yes, it was Bunty, not even a ghost of Bunty, just regular ol’ Bunty doing what Bunty does when people come out into the garden. (Except for not the night before when we were calling her.)
I told her off for not coming when called and gave her some grain and my husband went inside to wake our daughter and tell her the news. He said she opened her eyes immediately when he told her, asked if Bunty was ok, when he replied yes she said “I thought she’d turn up,” and went back to sleep.
For a short story about Bunty, go to the end of this post: The hens.