Wednesday, February 27

Hesitant Hubandry

It's alwasys something different......

Lately I have been hesitant to enter the coop. I do so twice a day to check feed and water and to collect eggs, but since the latest hen has died, I sometimes dread opening the coop door. The chicken that I found earlier this month did not survive. She had been attacked around the face and neck by what I can only assume were the other hens. The coop was shut tight against the cold wind and weather and there were no signs of loose boards or holes big enough for a predator to fit through.

I had placed her in a segregated area of the coop, made her comfortable and hoped she would recover. She was alert but very stationary and despite our efforts, she passed away. So I am reluctant to go into the coop. Since I can only assume it was the other hens, and I don't know what could have provoked them to attack a perfectly healthy member of their flock, I can't be sure that they will not do it again. To go into the coop and find another one of my hens bloody and defeated would push me one step closer to giving up on having chickens here.

I have always wanted chickens and they are a great addition - some would say a necessity - to our goal of a sustainable and sufficient life. Most of the experience has been wonderful but that part that sneaks in at unexpected times - death, sickness, disappearances - make me question my ability to deal with all the ups and downs of animal husbandry.

I can feed them, collect the eggs, shovel mountains of poop covered straw into wheelbarrows. I can enjoy their antics in the summer grass, I can buy, raise, and introduce new chicks to the flock without much aggravation, and I can use, through some fancy fencing, my chickens as little rototillers in my garden when the season is done.

So maybe I place too much emotional stock in my ladies. I talk to them and bring them treats and worry about them on a daily basis. Hawks, foxes, coyotes, loose dogs, wind chill, frozen water fonts, calcium intake.....

If I can't handle the ugly side of chicken ownership - mainly sickness and death - is it right for me to keep chickens? Should I have to be comfortable with all aspects of the obligation?

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