Last week, Mother Hen, the oldest of our hens, vanished - not even a few pathetic feathers. That same evening, we found Matilda on the wrong side of the gate. We have no idea what happened. There has been a bird of prey hovering around, but it doesn't look big enough to have taken her, or dumped Matilda outside the gate. I am not good on raptors, but I think this is a sparrow hawk, which I would have thought was too small. Hen harriers are presumably called that for a reason, but I'm fairly sure we don't have them round here.
Sigh. Mother Hen was by far the nicest and most friendly of our hens, and an excellent layer too.
So, we are left with Matilda, whose tail, I am pleased to report, is coming on nicely and she's looking a lot better now she's nearly finished her moult. In mid moult she looks as if she is falling apart. Feathers trail from everywhere and I was very tempted to pick her up and give the feathers a helping hand, but she can be a bit pecky so I decided to leave her to it.
The bantams moult very gradually, but as Mary is starting to fly, it's obviously going to be time soon to clip wings again. The bantams do not approve at all of the recent fall in temperature. They hunch up on the perch, and glower at me, as it is obviously All My Fault. As they are being so vile at the moment (they bully Matilda, despite being half her size) I felt no guilt at all in shutting them up for the day this week. They are shockers at hiding their eggs and as they're free range, and I'm idle, I'm not going to trail round after them for hours in the hope that I might happen across them carefully putting eggs somewhere they hope I won't find them. A day inside usually persuades them that laying in the boxes is not that bad an idea. At least until the next time.