Chicken Tragedy :(
It saddens me so to report the sudden loss of two of the golden girls. And it is all my fault.
The four of them have only been here about a month and what a joy they are to have around. The way they arrived was a bit sudden, also. They were gifted to us, along with a coop (an old playhouse enclosed on all sides with plastic corrugated roofing sheets). The coop was hastily set up and a run was fashioned with some t-posts and welded wire fencing that we had lying around. It totally worked in keeping them safe, however, it was not the best set-up as nothing about the coop or run was easily accessible (for giving them food and water, collecting their eggs or for cleaning) and there was no covered space outside of the coop for them to take refuge from the elements.
Over the next couple days, we cut two openings in the plastic siding and covered them with some doors we slapped together so that we could get into the coop, but it was still not ideal. There was still not a gate in the run for which to let them out to free range. That, and they were set up in a field that is way out of sight of the house.
I decided to move them over beside the garden near the house and in clear view from the front door. Relocating the coop turned out be quite the ordeal. In order to get it in shape for winter and the long term, I soon realized it would be a multi-day process. To make a long story short, I've been letting them free range while I remodel the exterior of the coop (a challenge in itself having chickens trying to lay eggs in it while half of the walls are missing). They have been enjoying the new surroundings, though, and go right back in at dusk and I close them in. However, I have started working on the run in my spare time but it is not yet secured, which means I have to trap them inside the coop when I'm away from home, which I feel bad doing during the day. So, yesterday, I had let them out to free range and I decided it would probably be ok to leave them out while I went away to work for a few hours. When I returned, though, there were only two of them here, right near the coop as usual. No trace of the other two. Only two eggs in the nesting box instead of the usual four. I searched and searched but couldn't find any sign of them anywhere. And the four of them stick together, anyhow. All my fault for leaving them out without a watchful eye. My guess is that one of the neighborhood dogs got them (they got my other neighbor's chickens last year).
Big lessoned learned on how easy it is to lose a chicken or two. Rest in Peace, Sophia and Dorothy. Thankfully, Blanche and Rose are still with us. I will hopefully be a better chicken mom because of this experience. On the other hand, their coop and run will be better than ever really soon. Come spring, I'll see about building up the flock.