On Saturday morning, I awoke to the devasating sight of my poor girls all lying headless, strewn around the chook yard. Feathers everywhere!
Only my darling Semillion, or Semi as she was most commonly called, still had her head, but her eyes were lifeless.
Semi was my special girl, rarest of the rare Buff Columbian Wyandotte bantams, but it was her personality and predisposition for eating out of my hand and chookey smooges that made her my favourite.
So too that she was invariably the first to go clucky, the most reliable of mothers and my best layer.
I confess to becoming complacent about urban foxes. In over two years, since my girls first joined me, never had we had any problems with foxes.
But on Friday night I was invited for dinner at a friends.
I returned after dark, to a very distressed Whippet Boy.
I put this down to the fact he was likely feeling a little neglected, as work demands and now an evening out had robbed us of much of our usual time together.
I didn't realise Whippet Boy was already grieving and trying to let me know all was not well in the chook yard.
I went straight to bed.
Whippet Boy woke me early, but I turned over to get a little extra sleep. By seven thirty I went down to tend my girls and was at that point confronted with the sight of my poor lifeless girls, victims of an urban fox attack!
With such a small flock, it is impossible for them not to become pets. I could not help but think over the wonderful memories I had of my girls, beginning with their nursing home visit to my dad, the day they came into my life, through watching them grow and mature, begin laying, moulting and the amazing chookie olympic events and yoga stretches they regularly amused me with, as well, of course as supplying me with eggs, for the better part of three years.
Each of my girls was named after a wine variety, being Wyandottes, so along with little Semillion, there was Shiraz, Merlot and Masanne and originally Chablis, who grew into a fine but impertinent rooster, so found his way to a new home, where he could bring new bloodlines into the Wyandotte gene pool of Victoria.
I fell in love with this breed, my dad had so highly recommended and prized. A breed that originated in Massachusets, in North America and were named after the original Wyandotte native Americans. They are a hardy, heavy dual purpose breed, as well as being fabulous layers over many years, their flesh is reputedly excellent eating, though I confess never having knowingly eaten it.
Having kept both the full sized girls and my bantams, the bantams are my favourites, but a mixed flock of both bantams and big girls ensures a mix of good sized eggs, along with smaller batam eggs as well.
How I will miss that supply of sweet Wyandotte light brown eggs for the time being. How I will miss thanking my girls for supplying me, my neighbours and friends with those glorious orange yolked eggs everyday.
How I miss my girls running to greet me each time I open the backdoor; a friend suggested this was merely because I fed them. However, with or without food for them, my Wyanos would always run to be with, or near me. They even bonded closely with Whippet Boy, who was grieving so desperately for several days after their deaths he would not eat, and lazed around the house, hanging his head. We are a sorry pair, with our home feeling very much emptier without our girls!
When preparing vegetables I am now in the habit of separating those my girls loved and those that go straight to my compost. I will have to turn the compost myself, for that matter. The loss of the girls permeates so many levels of my life!
I have been offered some new girls, of other breeds, but confess to becoming a Wyandotte devotee. There are many other breeds my chicken keeping friends revere, such as Faverolles, Australorps, Barnevelders and Silkies. I even quite like buff Orphingtons and Sussex girls, but I have discovered that Wyandottes are the breed for me, and I am acutely commited to keeping this increasingly rare breed alive and flourishing here in my backyard in Ballarat.
My Wyandottes were hopless flyers, as well as being very bonded to their surrounds, so they never strayed into the neighbours. Though they never provided me with even one chicken dinner, as their progeny were highly prized by fellow Wyandotte fanciers, they did provide me with a daily Wyandotte visual feast.
I am forever indebted to my original four Wyandotte girls for introducing me to the joys of chicken keeping. I miss them, but am already in the process of searching for some new Wyandottes to again grace my life and backyard.
Vale Semi, Merlot, Shiraz and Masanne. You were a wonderful flock ad served us well!