My Only Chicken

This is a really difficult post to write and even as I sit here, I’m intermittently sobbing.

This past weekend, my husband’s parents came down to help us finish building our chicken coop. We would have been at a complete loss without my father in law because he actually knows what he is doing when it comes to carpentry. He saved our bums in getting this coop built; thought of things we wouldn’t have, knew details we didn’t, etc. Anyway, between the two of them, my husband and his dad got everything but the roofing done. We were really excited to be able to move our chickens outside because they were getting way too big for their brooder.

So this morning, I started doing the animal feeding chores. I had tried to call the dogs in a couple times and my son tried to help, which really just means he startled them back outside. So when I finally got Sadie to come back to the house, I put her inside and set about cleaning he chicken’s waterer. I came inside to see she had gotten into the brooder area, and into the box with the chickens.
There were feathers flying, and I had to lift Sadie out of the box. The chickens she hadn’t caught with her mouth, she had squished and snapped their necks when she layed in the box. I got the dogs separate from the chickens, I had my son go back in the main house and I sobbed.

It was a disgusting waste of life. Those creatures, those lives I’m responsible for- gone. I called my mother-in-law weeping; I didn’t even know what to do. I just told her, “All the chickens are dead.” She consoled me best as she could and I collected myself to do what I had to do in disposing of the dead chickens.

As I was handling the chickens, there was a sudden flapping up from the dark corner of the room, and one single black cuckoo maran perched on the edge of the brooder! I nearly had a heart attack. The one chicken I was always annoyed by for it’s endeavors to escape the brooder​ survived Sadie’s attack. She must have flown out of the brooder and taken shelter in the corner of the room.

I  caught her and checked her for puncture wounds and for broken bones. Aside from a few feathers loose, she looked fine. She was walking and moving normally.

I set up another Rubbermaid tub as her warm brooder and offered her food and water. She ate and drank normally and appears to be doing fine. Thank God!

I really just don’t even know what to do or think about any of it. The issue of a chicken killing dog has to be addressed. As much as I hate the thought, we can’t keep a dog that kills chickens, so Miss Sadie will probably have to find another home.

Could this situation have been avoided? Most likely. I should have checked that all the doors to the chicken area were secure. I should have put the dogs outside on leads. I should have had my son with me helping instead of where he could let the dogs in or out. We should have had the coop finished before now… I just keep going over everything and kicking myself for carelessness. First the bees, (which by God’s grace are still in the hive) and now 8 of my 9 specially selected flock of chickens are dead. 

The farmer’s co-op is out of chicks for the​ year, and tractor supply only has a few left, and none are the breeds we had wanted. All the time and money we had invested into those chickens is gone.

 I’m upset and emotionally raw. In my whole life, I’ve dealt with more animal death this year than I ever have. I know they were $2 birds, and that dog attacks can happen. I just wasn’t prepared for something like this. Life is so fragile.

For now I don’t know what our plan is, but praise God for the one chicken who survived; all is not totally lost.


5 thoughts on “My Only Chicken

  1. I feel you! We bought a few pheasants this spring thinking they would fit in well with the chicken chicks. Boy were we wrong. I sobbed, too, knowing I had failed to protect the lives I had purposely sought out. Prayers that your coop has better luck this spring!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! Yeah, it’s tough when you feel like you’ve done all the research and still come up short. There’s something to be said for experience over theoretical knowledge and sometimes, we just have to learn the hard way. Which is tough especially when in hindsight you think, man, I could have avoided this. Best of luck to you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m very sorry for your loss. I know all-too well what that loss is like and it’s good to take time to grieve. But your dog is alive too and deserves your love and respect. I very much doubt you would throw your children out of the home if they sat on some chicks and killed them, and even if you don’t love your dog like a child your dog sees you as it’s whole entire life and won’t understand why you don’t want it any more. Even if you find your dog a home, there’s a real chance you’re just taking that home away from another dog who needs it, and it will never stop missing the home and family it had. It was just doing what dogs do… And it’s not the dog’s fault in the slightest. Even dogs that guard and herd livestock will snack on chickens if they’re not bonded to them. It’s what dogs do.
    Did you know most rescues won’t even adopt out dogs to farmers or working farms? Apparently a lot of rescues see dogs that come FROM farms because of things like this. Farmers aren’t viewed as particularly responsible homes for dogs. They’re instead viewed as homes where dogs are just disposable playthings to be gotten rid of frivolously without any effort made to work with the dog or fix the problem. I think that’s really sad.
    For what it’s worth, it’s very much a myth that once a dog kills livestock they can never be broken of it. A dog that kills livestock was motivated to kill livestock before it ever set it’s eyes on a chicken and killing the chickens changed nothing about that. The only thing that stands between it and killing livestock it it’s training, which most dogs have no training to not kill livestock. You CAN train a dog away from chickens but it requires patience. Infinite patience, and could take years. I also have a livestock-killer (a husky) and it took two years to break her, and she still can’t be trusted to be unsupervised. But if a chicken is loose she comes back when she is called and does not attack it. There are always options. Double gate systems, shock collars, electric fencing, repellents, tie-outs, invisible fences. Just to name a few.
    As for the chickens, there are also options for replacing your flock. You can invest in an incubator and try out shipped hatching eggs. You can look on craigslist for started pullets or check out local livestock auctions and chicken/livestock swap meets.
    It’s not over yet unless you want it to be. But you should know that these things happen even when you do everything right and you can expect it to happen again. Not because of your dog. But rather, because a bit of wire broke and a weasel got in. Or your door slipped and the chickens couldn’t go to bed at night and you woke up (or came home) to a massacre. Or perhaps you were gone all day and didn’t realize that a hawk moved into your neighborhood and now half your flock is gone. Or the neighbor’s cat decides those chicks under that broody hen look like a great snack. Chickens are on the bottom of the food chain, and even with extraordinary vigilance you will loose some, sometimes lots. It’s always sad. Heartbreaking, even. But it does get easier, and there’s always options to rebuild and do better next time.
    And really, that’s all you can ever do, because you’ll never get it perfect and there will always be losses. All you can do isdo better next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your words of support and encouragement. I’m so ignorant of this lifestyle, it’s a steep learning curve that I’ve never experienced before. Truthfully I think we tried to take on too much at one time. My husband made the call to take Sadie to the animal shelter and through tears, I took her and was assured she would easily find a new home where she could be happy in a single pet household. I miss her, but with her fighting all the time with our border collie, Cyd, we made the difficult decision. I don’t know that it was the right decision even now. But I regret taking Sadie in the first place without having thought through the implications of owning a husky or really any breed that is highly instinctual. It was a snap decision made out of emotion and not logical thought about what would be best for her and our homestead. That I regret immensely because it was my own selfishness and stupidity that cost me my flock, not to mention sweet Sadie. For now, we’re slowing down and seeking guidance before any and every decision while we try to figure out where to go from here.


    2. I will say I had the thought, “what am I going to do when this inevitably happens again?” Because I understand that chickens are a prey animal much like my rabbit. My answer is that I’m not going to bring another dog in to our home for a good long while. And we’re taking precautionary measures in designing and building our chicken run and coop. I absolutely agree, taking a dog to the shelter for instinctual dog behavior is bordering on cruel. It’s not something I ever planned on doing- my animals are my animals for life. I just genuinely believe that she can be placed in a better home that can give her more time and attention and nurturing than I can at this point in my life. And it isn’t fair to her to keep her in a place where she would be constantly tempted to get at the chickens in addition to have to keep her separated from our border collie to prevent fights/seizures. She shouldn’t have to be constantly crated or tethered or told “no.” I do pray she finds a loving forever home and I’m deeply sorry that home wasn’t mine.


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