*Latin for “Rest in Peace, Chickens.” Yep, I took a little Latin in college.
I’m gonna keep this brief, because if you know me well or keep up with me on Facebook, it’s old news. But I figure it’s a narrative thread that I need to tie up, so here goes:
We no longer have any chickens.
You may recall that, a couple of weeks ago, Brinkley killed one of our chickens, bringing the total down to three. Earlier this week, two neighborhood dogs finished the job.
It was a grey Monday morning, and it’d been raining for three days. As usual, I’d fed the chickens and let them out of their coop at around 6:30 AM, but what with the rain and the recent Brinkley attack, they were inclined to stay up in their roosting area.
At around 9 AM, as I came downstairs from wrestling the girls into a relative state of cleanliness and dressed-ness, I looked out the kitchen window and froze: there were two chocolate labs, dogs that I’d seen running through our yard from time to time, INSIDE the chicken fence with mouths full of feathers. Chicken corpses littered the ground at their feet. I knew right then that they were all dead.
I pulled on my boots and raced out the door to yell at the dogs and get them out of the coop. The girls followed me outside. “HEY! Get outta there!” I shouted. The dogs looked at me calmly and ambled away. I suggested that the girls stay inside, because the scene looked pretty gory, but they insisted on coming with me.
It was a mess. The dogs had bashed their way through the wire fence, and then ripped a wall out of the chicken coop in order to pull the chickens down from their roost. Body parts and pieces of wood were everywhere. I checked around to see if there were any survivors, because it was hard to count the total kill based on the partial bodies strewn around. No survivors.
“Gross,” Fiona said. “That’s even grosser than the dead chipmunk.” (A small specimen of roadkill that represented her grossest dead animal — until now).
I don’t know what made me think it, but I decided to call our next-door neighbor, Brinkley’s owner. I figured she’d know who owned the dogs, and she might also appreciate knowing that she wouldn’t have to worry about Brinkley killing our chickens anymore. This was one of the best calls I’ve ever made. Not only did she know the dogs’ owner (turns out these dogs have a reputation for breaking out of their electric fence and roaming the neighborhood, and were even on the Forest Service’s “warning” list for chasing deer), but she offered to call the owner for me.
Then she asked, “Have you cleaned it up yet?” I told her I hadn’t.
“I’m coming over right now to take care of it for you. You shouldn’t have to clean that up with little ones in the house,” she said. And no matter how much I protested, she insisted.
A few hours later, the dogs’ owner called and was as sweet and apologetic as could be. But, what can you do?
Aside from the four dead chickens, the worst thing about this is the sense of waste. It took a LOT of time, effort, and expense to raise these chickens over the past five months. They would’ve started laying eggs next month, and we never even saw that pay-off.
But the way I see it, the good things outweigh the bad. Here they are:
1. I learned that I have the absolute best neighbor in the world. I would give our next-door neighbors my kidney, my right arm, even one of our girls (hmmm….) for the asking. At the very least, I hope I have a chance to clean up some dead animals for them in the future.
2. I got to have some good conversations with our girls about death and nature throughout the day — about dogs being dogs, chickens being chickens, and death being part of life.
3. I have one less thing to take care of. It’s funny that I’d just written about adding things to my life, and my mom’s concern that I was taking on too much. Apparently the universe agreed with my mom. (Don’t you hate it when that happens?) The way I see it, these chickens were taken out of our lives at the perfect time, making way for the new puppy that’s set to arrive later next week. And I can’t say that I’m sorry not to have to feed the chickens on those cold, dark winter mornings when I’ll already be taking the dog out to relieve herself.
We learned a lot. We had fun with those chickens. We’re not the only people we know who’ve lost an entire flock to predators. And if we get more chickens next spring, we’re also getting an electric chicken fence.