Okay, first the good news. Josephine is back after an attempt to hatch eggs in our back shed. She was hiding very well, but something found the eggs when she dashed off to get a bite to eat. When I finally found her, she was looking sadly at a few small pieces of egg shell, the only evidence of her hard work. She's safe and sound and now laying her eggs in the nesting boxes.
Now the bad news. Earlier this evening, I was looking out the window and saw chicken legs pointing into the air. That's not good. Chickens will sometimes lie down in odd positions while they take a dirt bath, but I've never seen one sleep on its back. I figured something had to be wrong and it was. Our old white hen was dead, unmistakably dead. The little x's on her eyes were a dead giveaway. What could have happened?
My husband, Chris, had come out with me. He said something about compost and food scraps and that he didn't think anything had hit the chickens. When I figured out what he was talking about, I looked into the pen. There was a large piece of watermelon on the ground, which obviously had been in the food scrap bucket when Chris had tossed everything over the fence. The watermelon must have bounced and turned lethal while no one was watching.
I briefly considered finishing the job and preparing the old hen for dinner. This was an old hen. She was so old, she even laid wrinkled eggs. And she was scrawny. If this had been one of our large hens, there would be no way I would have passed up the opportunity for good chicken soup, but this one? Chris convinced me it wouldn't be worth the time and effort... not to mention the smell.
As we dug the hole and buried her, the other hens started cackling, much in the same way they do when they lay eggs. Maybe they were worried. The old white hen hadn't laid an egg in a few weeks. The others must have decided not to take any chances.
We'll see how many eggs we get tomorrow.