We have a small flock of chickens, 15 hens and a rooster. The birds have a large fenced yard and a spacious coop. A month ago I noticed that one of the new hens we had purchased as a chick this year was missing. My wife and I searched the birds’ pen carefully, and then the area around the pen. Occasionally a chicken will fly over the fence, but they never go far. Our search was unsuccessful. We concluded the hen had fallen prey to a predator. This isn’t common but happens occasionally. In the past we have had problems with raccoons and weasels. We also have coyotes, and had watched a hawk make an aborted attack this past Spring. Attacks by any predator usually leave an explosion of feathers, which was missing in this case. We were disappointed as the hen had just started to lay, and produced eggs that were a dark brown. She was one of a trio of chicks we purchased this year. Even after they were big enough to be released into the general population, they hung out as a cohort separate from the rest of the flock. It was sad to see the trio reduced to a pair.
Several weeks went by and I was emptying the compost bucket into pen when I noticed the prodigal hen had returned. She seemed no worse for her absence, and immediately started contributing her dark brown eggs to the daily production. We are at a loss to come up with a logical explanation for her disappearance. Chickens are not solitary animals, and it seems unlikely that she could have been nearby without our notice. We are glad to have her back, and will have to let it go at that.