I woke up early and decided to get a few chores done while my little "helpers" were away. As I scooped an armload of laundry out of the dryer, I stopped short when a thought suddenly hit me:
I left the coop open last night.
Josh and I had gone out for an evening swim and I opened the coop since I knew we would be outside with the chickens.
And I totally forgot to close it and lock it up.
I dropped the laundry and yanked on my galoshes before swinging open the front door. An unseasonably cold wind hit my face and raindrops fell harshly from the sky, foreshadowing what I was about to discover. I slowly walked around the side of the house and saw Henrietta standing next to our neighbors' barbed wire fence. When she saw me, she ran. The wind whipped my hair and when I pulled it away from my face, I saw what I feared the most: Something had come in the night and killed most of our chickens. I won't go into detail as to what I saw, but I had to turn away. I walked nervously to the coop and peeked inside, to find it dark and empty.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I ran inside to tell my husband. He came running out in the rain and stopped short at what he saw. I was so glad the kids weren't there to see it. He picked up what the wild animals had left behind and then crawled through the barbed wire fence to look for Henrietta. The rain was still coming down and my hair and sundress were soaked. I stood at the fence and called for her, but she was gone. Together we walked the length of our land, trying to find more chickens. We counted eight of the twelve were dead, all of the Ameracaunas and one of my banties. Three of the banties had simply disappeared and Henrietta had run away. I walked back to the coop and lamely turned the heat lamp back on, hoping the chickens that were alive might see it and come back.
When we came inside, I couldn't keep the tears from coming. I sank onto the couch and wiped my eyes while my husband, now late for work, squeezed my shoulder and told me it was okay. But it wasn't okay. It was totally my fault. I knew when we got the chickens that we would probably lose some. But I didn't know it would be my fault. When he left, I started sobbing.
I called my Mom and through ugly heaving sobs told her what happened. Of course, my Mom grew up raising chickens to eat, so they never attached to them as pets--I'm sure my blubbering about what she saw as chicken dinner was a little odd to her. But, she was compassionate and sympathetic and I appreciated that. I know they're "just chickens". But they were such a fun part of our lives here--the kids loved them and we loved them, too. And it was just so ... horrible. A horrible way for them to die. And it was my fault.
I dried my hair and changed clothes, preparing to leave for my hair appointment. When I opened the garage, I looked over at the fence, and there was Henrietta--and Pearl! Two of my beloved banties, alive and well. I ran over to the coop and ushered them in. They are totally unscathed and I've never been so happy to see, well, poultry.
As the day has worn on, I've tried keeping this in the proper perspective--the kids are fine, the house is fine. They were, I guess, just chickens. But I find myself getting teary at the thought of losing them and at the thought of what I saw this morning. I wasn't raised on a farm. I'm not used to animals dying. I hope I'm never used to animals dying. I just hate that this probably wouldn't have happened had I locked up the coop.
Anyway. I don't really know how to end this because I'm still sad and I know we can always get new chickens. But I'm kind of ready for today to be over.
Have a lovely day.