I had searched with my flashlight under nearby bushes, under the coop and under the little house. No sign of her. So, I expanded my search further out to the bushes nearer to the fence. Still nothing. I was getting nervous, now. The light was fading, and Peggy wasn't in any of the logical places. After more fruitless searching, I decided on a new strategy.
I went into the basement and grabbed Tina out of the brooder box. I put her back in the tractor, and she immediately started peeping very loudly, calling to her sister. Peggy will come out when she hears her sister's cries, I thought. But still there was no sign of her, and no peep in response to Tina.
While Tina called out to Peggy, I continued to look, and my friend Rachel arrived, expecting to go out to a nice, relaxing dinner. No such luck. She was quickly drafted into the chicken search. Now, the two of us began systematically the yard from top to bottom, flashlights in hand. By the time we completed our sweep, I was in tears. I called Dakota, and he started driving back home from his evening out. Things were getting dire.
We had covered every inch of the yard without finding Peggy, so I decided it was time to take the plunge into the neighbor's yard. Unfortunately, the house next to us was owned by an elderly woman who recently passed away. She hadn't kept up the yard in years, and it's literally a jungle of ivy, bushes and giant avocado trees, populated by skunks, raccoons and who knows what else. But, I was determined to find my chicken, so I put on long pants, hiking boots and a hat and went over the fence. (While I suited up, Rachel stood out in the yard, completely silent, listening for chick noises. Nada.)
I'm not going to lie; it was bad over there. There were giant spider webs, burrows that probably held skunks (luckily out for the evening) and lots of crazy undergrowth. Oh, and did I mention that both my yard and the neighbor's yard are on fairly steep hillside? Luckily, I didn't fall or get bitten or sprayed by anything. Unluckily, I did not find Peggy, despite a thorough search.
Rachel and I had now been searching for over an hour! We decided to regroup and collect our thoughts. How plausible was it that Peggy was able to scramble over a fence without me hearing anything? She's good, but is she that good?
So, we began to re-do our scan inside my yard, this time paying close attention to the undersides of everything. I got way up under the little house, just in case she was jammed up in there somewhere. As I moved to scan some nearby bushes, I heard Rachel say, "Audrey?" Her voice was unsure, but hopeful.
"Did you find her?"
"Uh, I'm not sure..."
I rushed over and looked at the tiny space under the boardwalk between the staircases where Rachel was pointing her flashlight. At first, I didn't see anything. But I looked closer and... way in the back... behind a pile of dirt almost the same color as her feathers... it was Peggy!
We were so happy to have found her, and relieved that she was okay. But man, that Peggy is one sneaky chicken. She'd been hiding under those steps the whole time, mere feet away from her crying sister, and hadn't made a sound or moved enough for us to hear her. I called Dakota to tell him the good news, and then, we started the process of getting Peggy out.
Here's where she was, although this picture was taken during the day, so picture it much darker.
Peggy was so far back under the boardwalk, I couldn't reach her with my arm fully extended. So, I got a hand spade, and we started digging her out. I tried digging holes in various spots, but couldn't get my hand through far enough to grab her. Eventually, we decided we'd have to shoo her out a hole ourselves, and then grab her when she popped through.
After a lot of coaxing, we finally got Peggy to squeeze through an opening I'd dug near the back of the boardwalk, and then Rachel and I grabbed her. I got her in my grasp, and was happy to have her safe but mad, too. Peggy was SO grounded!
Rachel, on the other hand, will from now on be known as my Chicken Hero. Or, Detective Rachel of CSI: Chicken Scene Investigation. I can't thank her enough for being such a good sport and for finding my sneaky baby chicken. Peggy owes her big, too. If we hadn't found that little chick, she might easily have been eaten by a raccoon or fox. I think Rachel will be getting a lot of fresh eggs from a certain someone in a few more months.