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Carnage

Hens | www.myfoododyssey.com

It started off as a normal morning. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, Casanova was making a racket in the garden. I was sipping my morning coffee when I heard a knock at the door. It was unusually early for visitors – so early that the door was still locked. I heard Arūnas opening the door, then panicked tones and footsteps running away from the house. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window to see where they were headed, swirls of thoughts rushing through my head. I saw Arūnas arrive at the chicken coop – and then he froze.

My heart stopped. I pulled on some clothes and ran outside. When I got close to the coop I could see feathers everywhere. I rounded the corner and saw them. Tiny, lifeless. I was horror-struck. “Are they all dead?” I asked Arūnas as I scanned the scene for signs of life. “All dead”, he replied in a whisper. Poor hens. Poor, defenceless little hens. Most looked like they’d had their necks bitten. One was fully decapitated and one was open at the belly, but mostly they were intact. Something had killed them just for the sake of killing them.

From the distribution of the birds and the amount of feathers scattered around there must have been quite a scramble. I don’t know how we didn’t hear it – it must have happened in the dead of night. We’re almost at midsummer so we don’t have many hours of darkness, but some cunning creature obviously found an ideal time to strike.

Pullet Hens | www.myfoododyssey.com

I feel responsible. The fence around the run is over 6 feet high and the top is covered with netting to prevent them from flying out, but there are a few gaps where a small animal such as a ferret could have crawled through. We used to close the pop-hole into the coop at night but since we covered the top with netting we felt they were secure and so we stopped. We liked the idea that they could be out pecking around as early as they liked without having to wait for us. We’re left wondering if that pop-hole had been closed might this carnage have been averted. I guess we’ll never know.

When we first got the hens I used to spent quite a bit of time with them and had names for a few of them. Thanks to Beelzebub’s reign of terror I had been kept away from them for a long time and so had lost contact with them as individuals. I loved them more as a group. I loved watching them peck around the garden, I loved how they ran after me when I went out with the scraps bucket, I loved the life that they added to our little homestead. And, of course, I loved the eggs. They were great layers, even over the winter and during their moult. We were never short of eggs. We could easily go through 10 or more eggs in a day, between making mayonnaise, pancakes, ice cream or even just a simple poached egg on toast. Those eggs will be missed.

Pullet Hens | www.myfoododyssey.com

We will get more, of course. First, we need to figure out how the culprit got in and reinforce the run and coop so it can never happen again. Then we’ll buy a whole new flock and wait patiently for them to reach the point of lay. In the meantime I’ll miss them and their delightful demeanor. As for poor Casanova, I can hear him crow as I type. Arūnas said he was standing outside the run when he first arrived. I’m not sure what level of comprehension chickens have and whether or not he realises that his girls are gone for good. That realisation is still only sinking in for me – and I don’t like it one little bit.

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Hens | www.myfoododyssey.com

47 Comments Post a comment
  1. Do you think we just have to learn to toughen ourselves up if we’re to keep hens or other livestock? I wonder how our ancestors managed. It’s heartbreaking though and especially in your case when the hens weren’t even taken. Seems so mindless. Here’s to super coops and safer hens in the future 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    July 20, 2015
    • Well, I think we’re probably tough enough in that we’ll get over it and move on, hopefully with a new flock. I think you’d be a strange kind of fish if you felt nothing at all finding your hens or other livestock dead, even if it was purely about the loss of eggs or the cost of replacing them. It probably impacted our ancestors even more deeply as it’s likely they were more dependent on their livestock for income or food. But that’s what makes us humans amazing, I think – we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and battle on. Let the coop reinforcement begin!

      Like

      July 20, 2015
  2. Just found your blog and read the top entry. I’m so sorry! What a thing to have to find and deal with. Best wishes as you deal with the aftermath, physically and emotionally. Owning livestock is hard – it’s a tough thing to lose your critters…any critters!

    Liked by 1 person

    June 24, 2015
    • Thanks Teresa. I still get upset every time I see a blog post about chickens. Hopefully when we get the coop fixed up and some new girls installed it will be easier.

      Like

      June 24, 2015
  3. So sorry to hear about your chickens June. That is terrible and sadly part of living off the land and having chickens I suppose. There are always predators lurking about looking for their next easy and free meal. Good luck on your new batch of chickens and hopefully you will not have to deal with this again.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 18, 2015
    • Thanks Amy. If some predator had gotten a free meal I might have been ok with it – it’s the waste part that gets me most. Hopefully we’ll fare better with the next lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 18, 2015
  4. Bugger… 😦

    Oh I feel for you guys on this one. We have lost many chooks these past few years to foxes, badgers and dogs, but never an inside the coop job like this.

    We have three bunches; one lot outside as scorpion munchers. They live under the kitchen steps at night and I have a gate on that. Previously they roosted in the big clementine trees, but even at 1m from the dog’s chain limit, the fox would pick them out of the trees. I lost 5 one night, with only one taken off – it’s the waste and carnage that’s so distressing 😦

    Then we have boys n girls segregated living quarters (or ‘soup row’ one side, and ‘egg city’ the other). I too like them to feel free at least, so their large pen is now completely enclosed with 5cm galvanised chainlink fencing over a welded building steel frame. So far the fox just stares at them (according to Bonzo), but she can’t get at them.

    Nature is horrid at times.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 18, 2015
    • Thanks Spike. Nature is, indeed, horrid at times. Oh, well. Sounds like your lot live in chooky heaven with all the space and freedom. Sorry to hear Mrs. Fox got a few. Delighted to hear she’s been thwarted by a good fence, though!

      Like

      June 18, 2015
  5. longchaps2 #

    Oh June, we both had a horrible week it seems. I’m so sorry about your girls. It’s going to be a worry not knowing what got into your pen. Your idea to just reinforce everything should do the trick. My condolences to you and poor Casanova.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 16, 2015
  6. That’s really sad indeed…just when I felt like I was getting to know those little feathered beauties. Nature is wonderful but it can be so cruel also. We can’t blame the ferret or mink, even though it seems to us that they have a nasty and brutal gene, but they are only doing what it natural to them, as horrible and terrifying it is to other creatures. All you and Arunas can do is to do your best, go one step further to protect your flock. Ferrets and Mink burrow down under the fencing so you must bury the wire at least 30 – 40cms bellow the ground. Minks are particularly ferocious, and yes inhumane, and are multiplying here…I passed two Mink roadkill yesterday! I believe they escaped or were released from Mink Farms in the Midlands by good meaning Greenpeace Warriors about 20 years ago and now they are a thriving species. There are home made traps you can set up (Google) but what do you do with them then? Who knows you could end up with a new Cottage Industry producing…no I don’t think so.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 16, 2015
    • Thanks Gary. I will definitely be setting traps when we get a new flock as well as reinforcing the fencing and the coop itself. I can’t see myself catching enough to start a Cottage Industry but if I do catch one I’ll try to put it to good use!

      Like

      June 16, 2015
  7. Oh, no…being killed for sport makes it even worse. There is something so warm and comforting about gathering eggs or bringing the ‘girls’ scraps from the dinner table as they bed down for the night. I am sorry for your senseless loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 16, 2015
  8. robinm910 #

    I feel your pain! I had 12 chicks, about 3months old, and we’re guessing coyotes got in the pen and killed 8 of them this past weekend. I was so sad when I found a pile of feathers in one spot, a headless body in another.. Re-enforcing the coop now. Luckily I have two spoiled girls that are my only layers right now. They refuse to sleep in the coop and sleep on my back porch every night! They were not harmed thankfully.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Sorry to hear that, Robin. At least you got to keep your two star girls. Hopefully the rest will all stay safe.

      Like

      June 15, 2015
  9. smfarm #

    That is so sad, and even worse when they were killed for sport and every last one of them to boot. The fox that got some of mine this spring would kill one or two at a time. Thank goodness he left and hasn’t been back… yet. Better luck with your next batch.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
  10. Mary Pyle #

    What a terrible sight to awaken to. It is so sad. We have trouble with coyotes. They can clear a hen house in a few minutes. Sorry for your loss. Hope you can get some new “girls” soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Thanks Mary. As soon as I get back from Aus we’ll definitely get some new girls.

      Like

      June 15, 2015
  11. I’m so sorry, June. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
  12. I am SO sorry to hear about the loss of your chickens! I wish I had some words of comfort. Just know we’re thinking about you.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
  13. How sad… In our neighborhood there are large snakes that get into the coops – imagine trying to keep those out! At least they only eat one at a time. So sorry to hear of your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Oh God, Liene – that’s just given me the creeps. The thoughts of a snake large enough to kill chickens slithering around my garden is too much for me. Thankfully we don’t have those here. (And if we do, please don’t tell me!)

      Like

      June 15, 2015
  14. In the U. S. when that sort of carnage happens it’s usually a weasel. They are small and kill for blood. It’s such a dreadful thing. Chickens have so many natural enemies and not much in the way of defenses. So sorry for you guys and your poor hens…

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Thanks. Yeah, chickens are quite defenseless. They can fly a little and can run fast if they have somewhere to run to, but in an enclosed space they’re pretty much sitting ducks. This animal must have been very determined. Poor girls.

      Like

      June 15, 2015
  15. How awful, June. Must have been a terrible shock. If that happened in Ireland it’d most likely be an escaped mink or ferret. I guess you have those living natively over there. They kill for sport and can slither in the tiniest hole. I remember it happening with our neighbours’ hens when I was a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Thanks Lyn. Yeah, we do have them wild here. I’m not sure how many there are around but we heard later this morning that one of the neighbours had their entire flock decimated just a few days ago. Hopefully someone will catch it before it does more damage.

      Like

      June 15, 2015
  16. Oh no! How utterly terrible. It sounds like mink…. they kill just for the heck of it. I know how you feel…. we lost our first flock to fox. It is devastating, but at least we could console ourselves that the fox was hungry and probably had young to feed. I just hate that mink kill just for the sake of killing.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Hmmm, yes I’m thinking a nice stole or muff could be in order….

      Liked by 2 people

      June 15, 2015
    • I agree, Margaret. Wild animals need to eat and if it had been just one or two then I could have accepted it as part of the great circle of life. But this was just a big damn waste. Winters here are cold – a nice hand muff could be very useful indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 15, 2015
  17. Oh no! Poor chooks, poor sister. What a mood-flattener. I’m not sure if you remember when we were kids, Dad bought a flock of baby ducks for the river, down in the village and about a week or two later some bastard mink came through and killed every last one…he was devastated. And he only had them a few weeks and no names and no eggs and no, well, BOND! I’m sure a little cry is not out of the question here. And then, nice things on the horizon – fluffy chicks to raise into your new flock.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Gosh, I’d forgotten all about those ducks. I remember him getting them – they were so tiny and cute. A little cry (or two) is definitely on the cards today. At least I have my trip to Aus to keep me busy and distracted. See you in a few days! x

      Like

      June 15, 2015
  18. I am so very sorry for you! We lost our whole flock a few weeks back and still have no idea what happened. Ours were only 11 weeks old and I didn’t yet get to appreciate their eggs but was still at the point of loving them like my dog. I hope you can get it all fixed and get a new flock soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Thanks for your kind comment. I just read your post about your chickens – how sad. Your poor kids must have been devastated. We will definitely get new hens as soon as we have the coop fixed up.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 15, 2015
      • My oldest handled it the best but my 6 yr old was devastated. She’s a huge animal lover but she took it upon herself to take responsibility and care for the chickens with a little help from me. So she took it really hard.

        Liked by 1 person

        June 15, 2015
  19. So sorry to hear about this, June! What a horrible thing… I hope you get a new flock soon and Casanova finds new girlfriends:)

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Thanks Janina. Poor ole Casanova does sound lonely today. We’ll get him a whole new flock to play with soon!

      Like

      June 15, 2015
  20. oh, I’m so sorry. but it is true that this sort of thing happens at least once to everyone who keeps hens. It’s just a pity that you’ve lost all of your girls and none were spared

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Thanks Asta. We talked about it afterwards and we were kinda happy that one or two lonesome birds weren’t left alive. Chickens need to be part of a flock and that would have been miserable for them. I guess these things do happen. We just need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

      Like

      June 15, 2015
  21. Oh no 😦 What a dreadful thing to wake up to! Nature is cruel. And senseless, at times… surely whatever kind of animal it was, one chook would have sufficed to feed it.

    Don’t beat yourself up too much, this kind of thing has happened to virtually all of the people I know who keep chickens. It just seems to be part of the experience, unfortunately.

    Fingers crossed your improvements to the coop will work as a deterrent.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Thanks Simone. Yeah, if it has just taken one or two hens I would have made my peace with it, but this was just senseless. I’m sure things like this happen to everyone and sometimes you just can’t fight it. Just after we tidied up the coop I went to check my veg beds and found 18 mole hills, mostly in one bed. I flattened them all back in, went inside for a coffee and went back to find 3 new ones. Sometimes I feel I’m running to stand still with this homesteading malarkey. It’s just a set-back, I know, but a pain in the ass at the same time. Here’s hoping Coop Mark II will be a different story.

      Like

      June 15, 2015
      • Ahrgh, and now having your efforts undermined by a bloody MOLE!!!! You can’t win, can you?! 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        June 15, 2015
  22. Oh June I am so so sorry. Those poor little cluckers. And poor you and hubby. Sending love from here for what its worth.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2015
    • Thanks Osyth. I think we’re both a bit stunned, to be honest. It’s only sinking in. Poor little hens.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 15, 2015

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