I started backyard chickening with three birds I inherited from a co-worker almost a year ago. We had a rough start with one, who was already sickly and not laying, and after a month or two she died. This left two chickens who spent the winter together, laying and playing happily.
Sadly, when the weather turned, one was set upon by the family dog. She was not injured, but I suspected an egg had broken inside her. She would no longer eat, pass droppings, lay eggs, or move from the corner of the coop. As a first-time chickener, I had to cull her myself, a very tough day.
This left Charlotte, our last Golden Comet, alone.
My fiancee and I would make sure to give her a lot of attention, and she went for a couple months free ranging around the yard, following me around while I gardened asking for corn. She even started calling out in the morning, as if to say - "Hey! Open the door so I can go play!"
Then, one day, we were outside doing chores, and Charlotte was nowhere to be found.
We spent a long time looking for her, in the brush and trees around her coop, all along the property, in the shed where she was housed during the winter months, we could not find her. She had gone off foraging before, and always came back around evening, so we decided to wait. Sure enough, when the sun started to set, there she was, wandering around our driveway pecking at this and that. She went to bed and seemed fine, so we did not worry.
It started happening more and more. We would let her out in the morning, by afternoon she was gone, and by evening she would be back in her coop. Now we were curious, so the next day we went off on an expedition, determined to find out where our girl was going.
We looked high and low. Up to the field beyond our backyard, down the path that stretches parallel to our house at the top of the hill, down to the road in front of our house. After another long, exhaustive search, my fiancee turns to me. She says, "Let's check the neighbor's yard." I walk through the line of trees that separates my neighbor's property from my own, and he just so happens to be outside tending a fire. He gives me a friendly wave and says,
"Hey! Is that your girl?"
My neighbor has his own flock, and sure enough, in among the Araucanas and Rhode Island Reds, is Charlotte happily pecking away. We spent a long time, my neighbor and I, talking chickens and this and that watching the girls hang out together. Charlotte seemed to get along pretty well with the neighbors, they allowed her to walk with them and forage with them. She even saw me come over and came running up as if to say "Hi Dad! Look, I found friends!"
So from now on when we let her out in the morning, and she's gone by afternoon, my fiancee might ask, "Where's Charlotte?" To which I reply, "She's probably next door, hanging out with her friends."
It's been a month or two now and Charlotte seems happier than ever. We have four new baby chicks that we are raising now. Charlotte will have even more friends before she knows it.
Happy Chickening, everyone.