Our first real tragedy resulted from one of man’s own creations. We’d had the fox issue under control for some time now, so we had become a bit more casual about the chickens. One evening the flock was out eating grass and happily scratching for bugs as my son and I were eating dinner. After he’d had a bath and I’d finished up the dinner dishes, we headed out to shut the chickens in for the night.
It was late dusk, approaching full dark, and as we stepped into the garage a hen ran out from a corner of the garage straight toward us.
That’s strange, I thought.
Strange that the chicken was not in the coop, strange that she was in the garage, and stranger still that she ran to us, not away. I began to feel a deep sense of foreboding.
Sure enough, as we walked through the yard toward the coop, I saw a dead chicken laying on the ground, then another, and another. The yard was littered with dead chickens. Their necks were broken but they were not chewed. Their heads were still on so it didn’t appear to be the work of raccoons. I checked the chicken coop and found two hens roosting where over a dozen should have been. The one that followed us from the garage joined the other survivors and I shut in what was left of our flock.
My husband was gone so it was up to me to clean up the mess.
I returned to the house and put my son in a pack strapped to my back. I grabbed a flashlight, the wheelbarrow from the garage, and headed back out to the crime scene. I pushed the wheelbarrow through the yard and picked up dead chickens in the dark. Not a happy memory.
I counted as I picked them up. Most were near the coop, but there were a few strewn out into the pasture. I followed the macabre trail, loading chickens as I went, and eventually had accounted for all but one. I continued a little further and that is when I found Randy. Furthest away and still warm, he must have chased off whatever had attacked, trying to protect his hens to the last.
That is when I cried.
As I mentioned before, I had a sort of love-hate relationship with Randy the Rooster, but to see him lying there, knowing how brave and fearless he must have been was really upsetting. I don’t generally have major hang-ups about seeing dead animals, at least not ones that we raised with the intention of eating, but this whole scenario felt so wrong; so completely against nature. It was clearly not the work of a fox. Foxes take what they need and consume it. This was purely malicious and completely tragic.
We’re quite certain the bloodbath was caused by a roaming dog. Some poor animal that had been so removed from its origins, and so mistreated by people, that it had lost its god-given instincts to kill no more than it could eat.
Needless to say we kept the remaining hens in the coop for a while. To add insult to injury we had to start buying eggs again. This was truly galling.
We’re fairly certain that the dog in question returned to the pound. Not by an actions of ours, we had no proof, nor the motivation to make any accusations, but apparently our chickens were not the only victims. So, like farmers do, we hiked up our britches and moved forward. We ordered a new batch of chicks, did our best to protect them, and now have a healthy flock that once again gives us eight to ten eggs per day. We still use the “random counterforce tactics”, and they still seem to work, most of the time. It’s been a year and we’ve had no more incidents. For the moment it seems that the balance has been restored.