Apologies-this is a long one, but I wanted to tell the whole story (well, most of it).
I hate to admit it, but yes, we have had a tragedy. A chicken tragedy. You see, my good man and I decided several weeks ago we needed to get some chickens. It was mainly for the fresh eggs–when I was still working, I had a coworker (another teacher) who had chickens and sold his eggs to me for $2.50 per dozen. He just delivered them to school, stuck them in the teacher’s lounge fridge, and I would run in there and grab them right before I left for home. I was purchasing one or two dozen per week, and they were absolutely delicious! So, you see, we were spoiled.
Then, of course I got sick and ended up having to retire. Now my husband is doing the grocery shopping, and no more cheap and easy chicken connection. Well, another friend from work came out to visit me and (don’t ask me how our discussion ended up here-I can’t remember), she revealed she had an unused chicken coop she would let us try out.
I started researching chickens on the interwebs, and came to the conclusion Rhode Island Reds would be our chicken brand/breed/whatever. They are really good layers, plus you can eat them for meat (I know, ugh…) in a pinch. So, I put it (our desire to locate some RIRs) out there on Facebook, tagging a couple of other teacher friends whom I knew had chicken connections.
Well, guess what? One of those friends had Rhode Island Reds incubating at his school at that very time! Now, in my husband’s mind, “FREE” is a golden ticket! His mom and grand mom both told me that when he was little, he wanted to be a garbage man just so he could go through people’s stuff and bring home the goodies! So, here we are with a loan of a free chicken coop and free chickens. What do you think happened?
Yep, we went and got the coop, went and got the chickens, went and got a chicken book, and went and got all the necessary feed and supplies. We were in the chicken business for about &35.00! We took care of them on our deck until they were old enough to go outside to the aforesaid coop. My good man was putting out feed and fresh water in the mornings before he left for work, and again in the evenings when he got home. He’s my hero!
As we watched them grow and develop, we were thrilled! Absolutely beautiful birds–and we started letting them out in the yard periodically when we were home. They were so cute, hunting and pecking for bugs all over the yard. When something would startle one of them, it was like they said, “Chicken Up!” and they would all run to converge together and set off as one group across the yard to some bush or shrub where they could all take cover. And they were smart enough to “come home to roost” about 8:45 p.m. when it started to get dark! (Yes, here in Arkansas during DST, we have long days). My husband would go out at about that time and shut and lock the coop.
It was at about nine or ten weeks or so, we started noticing that five out of six of them were developing larger combs on top of their heads, longer legs, and bigger wattles under their chicken chins (do chickens have chins?)
Yes, it was true. We had five roosters and only one hen. And she had a little bald spot on her head, like maybe someone was pecking her.
Well, there was nothing we could do about it at that point, so we just soldiered on, wondering if maybe we could trade some our roosters for more hens or something. They weren’t old enough to…well, you know. But then, the tragedy happened.
We had an awful storm on a Thursday night, with wind and rain and leaves and branches being torn off trees–and then a tree on the side of our driveway blew over onto our power line, bringing it down and leaving us with no electricity. We called our power company (1-800-9 OUTAGE-how clever!) only to find out over 100,000 people were also out of power. We live just outside city limits, so we knew we would probably be last on the list to get fixed. We have a generator, but it was not powering the AC (something about a connection problem???) at this time.
So my husband, who happens to be off on Fridays, spent all day Friday bringing up and installing an old window unit AC in our bedroom (yes, the generator was powering our electrical sockets) as well as putting box fans in several rooms. He then headed out into the yard to survey the devastation. Can you imagine several hours outside in the heat, blowing, raking, brooming (is that a word?) and burning the sticks and leaves, etc…? Well, my man did it.
He finally comes in, overheated and exhausted, to take a shower, grab a bite to eat, and then he goes to lay down in the cool bedroom. I’m thinking this was about 7:30 or 7:45 p.m. Don’t you know it? He fell asleep fast and hard. So fast and hard that I couldn’t bear to wake him up at 8:45 to go shut and lock the chicken coop. I, of course, can’t get out there and do it, so I just had to go to bed and hope for the best.
The tragedy happened that night. When we got up Saturday morning, we only had three chickens (all boys). And they were freaked out, like something terrible had happened inside the coop. There were feathers everywhere! I think my husband found one chicken corpse out in the woods near to our house.
Now those roosters were not going anywhere near that coop again. Come dusk, they could not be found. My husband is not exactly a chicken whisperer, so what were we to do? We couldn’t think of anything…so we reluctantly went on to bed.
Next morning (Sunday) we were down to two. Monday, we were down to just one lonely guy. We are thinking, “One rooster is all we wanted in the first place…” But now a quandary: Should we keep trying and get some more hens (which will get locked up at night) or just throw in the towel? I’d like to keep trying, but all the work is on my husband, so he should really be the one to decide.
I guess we will serve as the “terrible warning” to any one who is thinking of getting chickens… I’m sad.