These fluffy chicks, with unusual sticky-out plumage, arrived last week–the gift of our friend and neighbor Flo.
Four of them–five weeks old; a possible cockerel (the little red cockscomb is the give away, it seems) which we’d return if confirmed–and three females. They busied themselves immediately–casing the joint; in and out of the abundant foliage which is growing like mad–there’s been so much rain.
Chuck-chucking round the courtyard they went, checking for bugs and other goodies in this new environment–content to forage and let the morrow look after itself.
We had a job herding them into the little hen house for the night–why don’t they know it’s for their own good!
Chased them round and round the courtyard–a comic carousel–until the bright idea of backing them into little hall area of the dependence (side building) occurred.
One by one, we cornered them–me holding out the light long handled fishing net used to catch mice and relocate them! Meredith grabbing them and after much squeaking–poor terrified creatures–folding them gently but firmly through the door of the henhouse–why don’t they know it’s for their own good!
Down went the flap on the last one and we sighed with relief. Safe for the night.
An appointment in Toulouse means an early departure the next morning.
Meredith takes out a bowl of food just before we leave.
I follow her out to see how the little chickadees are doing.
And indeed there they were lying inert in the fresh hay.
We had the whole day in Toulouse to wonder how in the world..!?
Meredith started itching. Little mites had colonized her since she handled the chicks. Could they have done for them? Were they fatally traumatised by our efforts to coral them into the henhouse? Had they eaten something poisonous in the courtyard? Was the henhouse itself infected with a virus? Seemed unlikely.
By the time we arrived home, Flo’s husband Thierry had come by to take them away.
Flo came up with the more convincing answer the next day.
A fouine (stone marten) attack.
Our friend Jean-Phillippe–here for seasonal box hedge clipping–confirmed this theory.
Dramatically he held up his pen, saying the little predator is able to get through a hole as small as the circumference of a pen.
The marten then goes for the jugular and turns into Dracula!
This explains the almost unharmed look of the chicks as they lay dead on the floor of their short lived new home.
A sad tale from the Tarn.
Does it mean perhaps that no more little hens can safely inhabit the courtyard of Saint Martin for fear of the deadly night rambler–the unseen Stone Marten?