How I killed a chicken

Last night, I locked our flock up in the coop at dusk without realizing that our two Barred Rocks, who seem to have a habit of lingering outside longer than the other chickens, were not yet in. It was too dark for me to count my chickens, and they weren’t anywhere around the coop, so I didn’t notice.

This morning, I found one of them wandering around the yard. I put her in the coop with the rest of them, and my heart sank when I realized the other one wasn’t there, either. I did a circuit of the property with a scoop of corn, but couldn’t find her.

Kevin found her, eviscerated, under a bush about twenty feet from the coop.

I understand that, no matter what we undertake, mistakes are inevitable. If your undertaking is woodworking, you will, at some point, have boards that don’t quite meet at the corners. If it’s gardening, there will, one day, be stunted beets or wormy cabbages. Pushing the cooking envelope? Prepare yourself for the occasional take-out Chinese.

If it’s livestock you’re raising, something will die.

It’s happened to us before. One of our turkey poults drowned because we were careless. One of our chicks got picked off by a hawk. We lost a full-grown chicken to what we suspect was a liver overtaxed by chicken treats. And now this.

It was absolutely, positively, unequivocally my fault that our chicken got torn apart by what was probably a raccoon. It’s gut-wrenching.

9 people are having a conversation about “How I killed a chicken

  1. there’s really nothing i can say because, knowing you, nothing will change your mind about how you feel. but, with some experience, i can say its exceptionally hard to see who’s in or out of your coop at night. The only thing you can do is move forward and use this experience towards the future… there is always an upside. the upside is that it didn’t cost you both.

  2. Emily Swartz says:

    I had a dog attack my teenage chickens once that I thought were safe and sound in their cage. The dogs tore right through the cage door and killed all 7 of them. A neighbor witnessed it but the dogs were so aggressive toward him that he could not intervene. I was incapacitated by horror and guilt. It really really sucks but try not to feel too bad because, like you said, it happens. Your chicken had a very happy life and it ended with a raccoon having a good meal. Check your coop for any loose spots because he will return. Chicken wire is not strong enough. You must use hardware cloth.

  3. Yep, been there too. It’s a horrid feeling and you have my sympathy. My Dad always said ‘If you’ve got Livestock, you’ve got Deadstock’, it’s just the way of the world xx

  4. Myrna Bowman says:

    That is a horrible feeling…. we too have lost livestock through carelessness, or just plain not paying enough attention (is that the same thing?) Have lost several chickens that didnt get locked up at bedtime. Then there is just life happenings. Lost our favorite goat couple weeks ago; she was about 12 and it was expected. Dont believe she suffered much. Different story with the hive of bees we lost sometime in the last month. Checked hives Sunday, the weak hive now thriving; the strong one all dead….figure they came out of cluster during the 50 degree plus days in Jan; then overnight it turned very cold and strong east wind. Figure they froze to death and figure they did suffer. Does anyone else cry over dead chickens, goats and bees.

  5. Whenever I do something stupid or careless or just poorly considered, and something bad happens as a result, it is good to hear that even those of you who are more experienced and skilled stewards occasionally have similar bad things happen. And I know you know how rotten I feel.

    Janie, your father just about sums it up.

    Thanks for the moral support.

  6. I know your pain all too well. One day two weeks ago I went out on our deck which looks down on our fenced in chicken coop. We religiously shut the hens in at night and their coop is surrounded by 160′ of electrified poultry mesh. We want the chickens to roam free yet be as protected as possible. The fenced area is in a thick stand of trees and brush where they get to forage for bugs and protection from aerial predators. What I saw was heartbreaking, white feathers scattered about and a young Coopers hawk tearing our favorite chicken apart. Another was sitting in an overhead tree. In my state of Missouri it is legal to kill a person attempting to steal my chickens; Federal law says I can’t kill a hawk that is killing my chickens, even if caught in the act. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, I wanted revenge. I knew those hawks would return day after day until there were no more chickens. Being a law abiding citizen I was left with few options.
    You can identify a Coopers hawk by it’s chest feathers, its tail shape and it’s yellow eyes. How do you get close enough to see what color their eyes are?

    I’ll never tell.

  7. We lost our first chickens to our own dog. We left the birds were in the coop and the dog was in the house, he got out through the kitchen door into the porch and the porch into the backyard. I’d mentioned to my husband that the coop door needed a better way to secure it but didn’t push the issue when he said he thought it was fine. It wasn’t, and we learned to be SURE the house doors had latched (the wind blew them open) and he put a latch with the hasp on the coop. Much good it did the first batch of hens.

  8. I’m so sorry, Tamar. I agree with Amanda…an upside is that you didn’t lose them both. You WERE being careful, by diligently putting your flock in the coop for their safety. Sometimes our animals (and human toddlers, I’ve decided) make it really difficult to keep them safe. We do the best we can to anticipate what we need to do but, gosh, some of them are creative kamikazes. Another upside…you know who to look for when you’re doing your headcount. At least you know who the likely straggler will be now. How could you have known that they’d lingered outside THAT long? So sorry.

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