life (and death) on the farm

One of the things that drives me crazy about social media posts is, frankly, the excessive optimism–travels and kids and accomplishments and fun and smiles.  Yes, they are all part of life.  But so are the challenging times–illness, financial struggles, relationship woes, addiction, disappointment.

So, here’s my contribution to the reality check on social media.

This afternoon the three dominiques mobbed, attacked, and almost killed the brown chick.  Ron had to kill it to put it out of its misery.

Needless to say, it’s been a difficult afternoon.

I didn’t see what happened.  Ron saw most of it.

Ella and Daisy had taken the chicks outside for the first time today.  (We think the yellow chick hatched Sunday or Monday, and the brown chick Monday or Tuesday.)  They had been encouraging the chicks all morning to no avail.  The hen-moms would go outside for a few minutes, do their wonderful gentle clucks when they eat, and return to the chicks after a few minutes.  It didn’t work when I was out in the garden for most of the morning.  But by early afternoon, they had apparently coaxed the chicks outside.

It appears that Ella had been sitting in the orchard with the brown chick under her.  (Ella and Daisy had been co-parenting both chicks–that was another story I had hoped to tell today.  This was not the story I expected to share.)  The brown chick made the mistake of coming out from under her.  Apparently the dominiques were nearby, saw it, and attacked.  We’ve read (and been warned) that chickens will kill chicks and chickens.  It could have been that.  Or they could have seen a small brown thing moving in the grass and thought it was a mouse.

Either way, loud and violent mayhem ensued.  Ron saw most of it.  He’s told me a bit of the awful story.  I won’t repeat the most gruesome details here, but Ella tried to intervene and defend the chick.  It was three dominiques against one Ella.  She was outnumbered and could do nothing despite her fierce, brave attempts to protect the baby.  Ron also tried to intervene, but it was too late.  He put it out of its suffering.

I had been inside.  Ron told me what happened.  We proceeded to spend the next ninety minutes trying to protect the one remaining chick who was now beneath the regular coop with Daisy, Ella, and “Auntie” Caroline when Daisy and Ella were not wandering around doing “SOS chick” clucks and obviously looking for the poor brown chick.

We managed to lock the dominiques in the mobile coop.  (Picking up the chickens from time to time proved useful since I managed to get them in the mobile coop quite easily.)  Then we finally coaxed Daisy, Ella, and the chick into the regular coop and shut the door.  At least they were now safe.  Meanwhile, poor Caroline was left outside with the murderous three Ds. 

Now we wanted them to trade places: get the chick and one hen-mom in the mobile coop where the hen-mom could safely raise the lone chick.  So, after deciding that Ella would raise the chick, I managed to grab the little puff of yellow fluff, put my hands (with the chick–who was actually quite strong) in a plastic pet carrier, and that enticed Ella into the carrier (after all, she was frantic to protect the remaining chick–poor thing).  Then I was able to set the chick next to Ella and shut the door behind them. 

Meanwhile, Ron had opened mobile coop and booted the dominiques out.  Then we opened the regular coop door.  We carried Ella and the chick in the carrier into the orchard.  Daisy left, still looking for her chick–also poor thing.  We somehow managed to get the three dominiques into the regular coop.  And once they were locked up, we felt secure about opening the mobile coop door and transferring Ella and the yellow chick in there.  We knew Daisy and Caroline, now in the orchard, posed no threat.

Finally, all the chickens were in their new normal: Ella and the lone yellow chick in the mobile coop.  Daisy, Caroline, and the three Ds in the orchard with access to the regular coop.

It was horrible to hear Daisy and Ella doing their emergency chick call and watching them look for the lost chick.

It was awful to pick up the little yellow chick and watch Daisy and Ella go into defensive hen-mom mode.  Of course they would.  Especially after this afternoon.  Even if we were trying to look out for them and the remaining chick.

It was terrible to carry Daisy over to Ella and the chick in the mobile coop and see Daisy want to get in the coop with them.  They had been co-parenting the two chicks since Sunday or Monday.  Now their little family was broken up in more ways than one.

It was sad to see the yellow chick come over to the wire mesh of the mobile coop, right next to where Daisy was standing.  Clearly she wanted to be with Daisy, too.  She was used to two hen-moms.

Once I carried over Auntie Caroline to the mobile coop, it was horrible to see both Caroline and Daisy munching grass and looking for bugs around the perimeter of the mobile coop.  It was obvious they didn’t want to leave Ella and the chick, even if they were inside the coop on the other side of the wire mesh.

It was also sad to see Caroline and Daisy nestle down into the grass on the opposite side of the mesh from where Ella had laid down with the chick under her.  They were trying to do their chicken-pig-piling as they had done for most of the week in the corner of the regular coop once Caroline had been tested by the two hen-moms and approved for “Auntie” (aka chicksitter) status.

And, a little while ago when I went outside to see what was happening, it was bizarre to see the three dominiques pig piled with Daisy and Caroline on the outside of the mobile coop directly across from Ella and the chick, as if nothing had happened an hour and a half earlier.

Again, it’s been a difficult and sad afternoon.  Welcome to life–and death–on the farm.

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One Response to life (and death) on the farm

  1. Bob says:

    Hi Sara Maybe you should write a book. 30 or more year ago a lady wrote a book about raising chickens. I think in British Columbia. I can’t remember the title. If I think of it will let you know. There was also a movie made from the book.


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