Piecing things together was difficult. There was one carcass outside the front fence. Fiona found one a ways into the woods. We counted 3 piles of feathers in the yard and two across the road in the woods. Four chickens were cowering in the shrubs. One was wedged way under the shelf in the potting shed. One came back several hours later and really did not want to go back into the coop. If each feather pile accounted for one chicken, that still left one missing.
Morgan got the chickens to take out to Matinicus- the supposedly rough and dangerous offshore pirate island. In the interim the chickens were free ranging in the Meadow Drive Subdivision in Camden- a more self contented and complacent environment would be hard to find. And yet it was here in insulated Volvo retirement professional comfort land that the massacree transpired.
They were a delight to have around with their conversational lawn pecking and the way they'd all come running to greet whoever might come out the door. All was tranquil for 10 days or so.
We had been warned about turkey vultures, but in my smug insular suburban ignorance I could not imagine a bird capable of flying off with a full grown laying hen, much less 5 of them. Morgan the owner of the chickens seemed much less upset than the rest of us, and surmised that birds of prey had made off winged-monkey style with our (her) chickens.
Morgan was not sad. I was sad. And even though in my well fed 21st century complacence I had no need of these birds, I felt a sharp pain of losing a food source and income stream that must have gripped farmers through centuries when predators or disease came calling. Even though it bore no relevance in my life, I felt scared and panicked by losing these productive animals. In earlier days, the loss might have meant starvation, accelerated poverty or increased vulnerability to disease.
These latent instincts erupted at 8 or so in the evening when I saw through the dusk and puckerbrush a fox prancing off with one of the chickens that must have been hiding from the vultures. I exploded out the door yelling obscenities at the fox and tramped through the prickles, charging to where the fox had been. The chicken had been dropped there, except for the head which was nowhere to be seen and which pretty well meant Goose, the favored black hen was not coming back to the yard.
Today, the kids and I went to the middle school to play baseball. It was the best of the first world: green grass, warm weather, sport, family, and an absence of starvation and fear, with none of the bad parts such as over-stimulation from fingertip activated electronic devices, digital era angst over all that is wrong with the world, high fructose corn syrup and similar perils.
When we returned to the scene of the crime, a silent but creepy spectacle greeted us. At least a dozen very large black birds were alternating between wheeling slowly around over the yard and perching in the bare hardwoods. This was our yard, but it felt like something between medieval dragon invasions and a Tolkien movie.
As E.B. White might put it, I was reminded of one of the harsh realities of farm life- or real life depending on how one looked at it. What it really amounted to was that regardless of our self satisfied
suburban domination of the environment, nature still totally kicks ass.