Junior chicken, so named because she looks just like her mother, Missy (so does Baldy, if it hadn't been for the unfortunate head pecking she got as a young pullet her first day in with the rest of the flock), disappeared a couple of weeks ago. Missy used to pull that trick every summer for years, reappearing three weeks later with a newly-hatched clutch, so we haven't been too worried about Junior yet.
Junior disappeared last year, too. I watched the calendar and eventually found her nest. But Junior's too fast, and flies too well, for our little Bantam rooster, Coach, to catch, I guess. After four weeks, and nothing hatching, we took the eggs away from her and got her back in with the rest of the flock.
This morning, while I was out hanging some laundry on the line, Junior came up squawking for food. I kept an eye on her while she gobbled up the feed I put down for her, and then as she got a drink of water. Then she went over to where I'd been watering a plum tree, and proceeded to dust-bathe. Finished with the laundry, I sat down on a log a little ways away from her to watch and wait, to see if I could find where she's been hiding.
She knew I was watching though. She pretty much finished with her bath, but then just stayed in her little hole, murmuring and clucking to herself, picking a bit a the dirt around her. I sat, she sat. I tried facing off towards the distance, keeping her in sight from the merest corner of one eye. No dice. She was in a nice damp hole in the shade, I was in the sun and the humidity from last night's brief thunderstorm made it even hotter.
Ok, something's got to give - guess it'll have to be me. I got up to move the water on a couple of the trees. When I was clear down at the bottom of the lot, she jumped up and ran up towards the house. I ran too, just barely keeping her in sight - she was heading towards the shed. By the time I got up there, she was nowhere in sight. Under the fence? Under the shed? Wait! There, in the middle of a clump of Oregon Grape next to the patio, a leaf wobbled back and forth in the still, heavy air. Gotcha!