An Elegy For Chickens

An elegy is a poem of serious reflection that is typically a lament for the dead.  A Pavane is a slow, processional dance from the 16th century.

Pavane For A Dead Princess – Play this while you read

My dear friends, it is with a conflicted heart that I report that I have given up the backyard chicken business.  There may come a time when I resolve to try once more.  But I am defeated.

The last post in this blog is about the Ratty four being upgraded to the Fair four.  That was three months ago.  Since then, two of those hens died and the other two didn’t lay any eggs so I gave them away.  A very nice 8-year-old answered my Craigslist ad (free hens) and said she and her dad would be over to pick them up whenever I could get there.  When they showed up, her dad only spoke Spanish, so I said, “Las gallinas son para la cocina?”.  “Si,” he answered.  Gallinas is hens and cocina is kitchen.  Fairly straightforward.  I felt a little brutal, but I certainly wasn’t keeping them and I had “processed” enough food in the Peace Corps to ever want to do anymore.  But that is better than the two others who were killed by an opossum.  THOSE two had potential!  They were healthy, had good feathers, and were almost at an age where they would start laying.  I HAD left the coop closed but there was a gap in the door, and there was a gap in the back wall – the predator got in one of those two ways.  My neighbor said the damage sounded like an opposum.

So, on the same day I sold the two old hens, I bought 6 young pullets from a guy up in Valley Center.  $3 a piece, and some feed to go with them.  They were only about 3 weeks old but had their feathers and were all healthy.  I brought them back to the coop, got them some fresh pine shavings, got their food and water set, and shut them in the coop.  I closed the hole in the back.  I secured the door so there was no way a predator could get at them.  Within a few days, two of them were dead.  Not from trauma.  My suspicion how is that one of the old hens brought some low-grade disease with it, got it all over the coop, and the new ones hadn’t built up any resistance to any disease.  I believe it eventually claimed 4 of the six.  The second two just didn’t thrive.  I bought medicine to add to their water.  I bought medicated food.

This saved the last two young birds, although they weren’t very inquisitive.  They merely stood, huddled, in patches of sun.  It hasn’t been a typical cold fall yet, so I am fairly confident that they were feathered enough to stay warm.  In an effort to liven them up, I opened the door to the coop so they could run around the yard.  This was Saturday afternoon, and I didn’t go check on them the rest of that day to see if they were enjoying the enclosed yard.  I didn’t realize that I forgot to close them in Saturday night – the coop door was open.

Sunday morning’s check brought a grimace of realization to me.  The last two hens had been killed in the night, once again my fault.

I am really sad.  Mostly because I don’t have the instinct of a rancher.  A rancher always checks.  I am very conscientious about our indoor cats – they always have food, water, fresh litter.  I wouldn’t go a day without making sure they are fine.  I have said here before that I owe more to these chickens, yet I have not improved enough.  Even though they are not an endangered species, I still maintain that they deserved safety and comfort.

Godspeed to those kind animals – I wish I would have done better for them.