Most of the time I live in a happy world, my world. My world is a place of happiness and harmony. A place where everybody loves everybody, people don’t get sick, cars don’t break down, toilets don’t back up and everyday is a good hair day. A place where French fries and bread pudding won’t add inches to my hips and chocolate is one of the four main food groups. My world is a place where mouth noises are non-existent, cock roaches are extinct and chickens never die!
Unfortunately, my world was interrupted with a big dose of reality from the real world.
Devin warned me months ago, when we got our chickens, there would be a good chance that coyotes, raccoons or other varmints might want to kill my chickens. We had lost a few here and there to hawks but other than that we had been pretty fortunate. Until a few weeks ago.
Devin and I had been gone all day helping our son and his wife move. Knowing we wouldn’t get home until well after dark, we instructed Caleb to put the chickens up for the night. The next morning, when Devin went to let them out he knew immediately that something was wrong. Earl, our studly rooster, didn’t come out first like normal. Wondering what the problem was, Devin peaked inside to find Earl critically wounded and two of our girls missing! Apparently, the evening before, while the chickens were free ranging, they ventured off a little too far, into the danger zone where coyotes lurk.
It was clear that whatever took Lacy and Maddie had also given Earl a run for his money. From the look of things, he had put up quite a fight. All of his tail feathers had been torn out, taking with them chunks of flesh.
Not only was his back side wounded…his ego was wounded as well. He wouldn’t crow, he wouldn’t cluck or call the girls to come eat. He no longer led the pack when running out to meet me…he could barely get around. Besides be physically hurt, he was hurt emotionally as well over the tragic loss of two of his best girls. How do I know these things? Because I am the rooster whisperer 😉
Every night for over a week, Devin and I would bundle up, go out to the hen-house and doctor Earls wounds. Devin would hold him while I had the privilege of applying the ointment to his raw and open wounds. I did not like this job at all! I love a man who knows how to handle a rooster!
See that look on Earls face? As the rooster whisperer, allow me to interpret what he is thinking, “Put me down! What are you doing back there? Hey, wait a minute, where are you going with that ointment? I said put me down!”
Finally, after a few weeks of doctoring, Earl began to show signs of real progress. He began to cluck and make the usual rooster sounds, he started scratching in the dirt again and calling the girls over for food, and then finally he got his crow back! But the real sign of recovery was when he was able to resumed his roosterly duties as “stud rooster”.
Weeks went by and things were getting back to normal. Even though I had lost Lacy, one of my favorites, and Maddie, we still had nine hens and Earl. The girls were laying like pros and Earl was doing a great job taking care of his ladies.
The same day that I took this picture, tragedy stuck hen-house road once again. Later that evening, around dusk, while the chickens were scratching around for one last morsel before bedtime, there was another ambush. Coyotes struck again!
When Caleb went to shut them up for the night he saw that five of my girls were unaccounted for. He ran back up to the house and yelled, “mom! How many are there supposed to be?” “nine!” I replied. “well”, he said, trying to catch his breath, “there’s only four there, and Earl, that’s all I see”. I couldn’t believe it! Not again! I grabbed a flashlight and followed him back to the hen-house. When I opened the door I saw for myself, what Caleb had said was true. Earl was there safe and sound, along with Ms. Fry, Edith, Black Betty and Penny. That was it. The rest was gone. I shined my light around outside thinking maybe they were scared and hiding somewhere, but there were none to be found.
By the time we got back to the house, Devin was driving up from a long day at work. I hated to bombard him with bad news but I needed him to see if he could find them. He changed clothes immediately, grabbed his head light, a gun, another light for Caleb and off they went…chicken hunting. About thirty minutes later, my two heroes came back with the news. At the end of their search they found a pile of feathers at the bottom of the hill, where the coyotes had their feast. I was so sad, to the point of tears hearing the grim news. I never planned to get so attached, but I just couldn’t help it. Each one of those girls had their own personality and special place in my heart, especially Dorothy. Every time I sat down, she would hop up in my lap and sit as long as I would pet her. Now she was gone.
The next morning, when Devin went over the let the chickens out, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. When he checked to see what it was, he saw Scarlet, one of my Rhoad Island Reds, running frantically out from under a brush pile where she had spent the night. She was so glad to see somebody! She ran as fast as she could toward Devin looking for food and shelter. She was scared to death and her back was white with frost, but other than that, she was fine! Somehow she managed to escape the ambush and hide in the bushes. I was happy to see her safe and sound.
This whole thing of growing attached to my chickens and then loosing them, was not something I considered or planned for in my happy world. It didn’t occur to me that there was a sad side to having chickens, but as reality often does, it showed me different. My first thought after the loss was, it’s just not worth all of the heartache and disappointment, but I was quickly reminded of the joy they brought to me and my family. If we live our life in fear, shielding ourselves from the bad, then we miss out on all of the good that life brings, and the good always outweighs the bad!
It’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved a chicken at all.
Thanks for reading! I love you more than an afternoon nap 🙂