The Post I’ve Been Dreading

I’ve been putting off writing this post because the subject is one that I have been dreading ever since we first got our babies back in April, and increasingly since about the end of September.

One of my hens was struck in the road, by a car.

It was one of my two remaining Gold sexlinks.

Now the only sexlinks I have are Abigail, Dots (our rooster) and if you count Pip (sexlink-x-RiR cross).

My heart is all kinds of broken.  And also all kinds of angry.

But not at the car/person who struck my chicken.  At myself, for not pushing harder to make a fence happen… and at both Dad and my DH, who both (at at different times) refused me the right to have a fence.

Some background on our Great Fence Debate:

When we first started talking about chickens, I wanted to fence in the inner barnyard for them.  DH was for it, but when we mentioned it to my Dad, he said “NO!” because if it was fenced off, he wouldn’t be able to drive his truck, tractor, lawn mower back there.   So, we opted to build them the little run, with the option to let them free range as they got bigger.

I asked DH’s cousin, Holly, (who lives a couple miles away on the same stretch of road) if she’d ever lost any chickens to the road.  She said no, because hers were afraid of the cars and ran away if they were close and a car drove by.

So I assumed mine would, too.  The cars and trucks that drive by are bigger, louder and noisier than my chickens. They would be afraid and run.

Right?

It wasn’t much of a problem for most all the time we’ve had the chickens.  Until June/July, they mostly stayed in the run and coop.  After we started letting them out of the run, they all stayed in the inner barnyard.  Occasionally, little groups of them would walk around to the side of the barn or out front of the barn, but they all stuck close and away from the road.

Then we did the butchering, leaving Dots alone with his sixteen hens.  They were older by now.  The girls started laying eggs.  Abby went broody (September), and Rebecca and Ava started wandering closer to the road.  They crossed it a couple times, lead other girls and sometimes Dots to join them.

Since the first time, we’ve had an on-going debate over the absence of a fence and the need for one.

If we’re not at home, I lock them in the run.  We clipped wings to keep them from flying over the run (we have some girls who still do).

I’ve suggested a chicken tractor.  DH is against it because it would mean 1) they weren’t ‘truly free range’ and 2) they wouldn’t be using the coop he worked so hard on.

Then Rebecca got killed by the predator (we think cat).    Dad finally said to me, “you know, you should fence off an an area for them.”  We talked about it and both decided that IF we could get DH to build a fence with a gate for us to drive through, we could just clip the wings occasionally and the chickens should be fine.

DH still said no, giving the same reasons as above.

Then, this past Tuesday happened.

It wasn’t a good day all the way around.  Little Dude had been suffering from a toothache and I had to take him to the dentist (about a 45 min drive).  We were there ALL day.  As we were leaving, just getting on the Interstate to drive home, he says to me “Mom!  I left my glasses at the dentist!”  no place to pull over, and I suck at using my phone while driving so I couldn’t reprogram the GPS (I had never been to that dentist before, so I was using the gps on the phone to navigate).  I decided to go home, call the dentist, and go back the next day to get them.  Neither me or Little Dude had eaten since breakfast and it was almost 2pm then.

So we made it home, and as I’m pulling up to the house, I see this little pile of gold/red/white by the side of the road.

Ava.  Dead.  I screamed and cried and as soon as I was in the driveway and parked, I ran down to get her and just held her and cried.

Mom said she’d been watching and had shooed her across the road once.

Dad was in the barn.  The rest of the chickens were closer to the inner barnyard.

I don’t know what Ava was doing all by herself crossing the road.  I guess there’s no way of answering that question now.

I spent the rest of the day pretty upset. (I’m still pretty upset.  It’s like we’re not meant to have sexlinks.  If something happens to Dots, Abby and Pip, I will be broken.  Not to mention what it will do to Little Dude.)

I found pictures of Ava on my phone.  Some with her sisters.  They made me start crying.

DH asked what was wrong.  I told him nothing, I was just thinking.  He asked what?  I asked him. “what do I need to do, what do I need to sacrifice or give up or go without, to get you to fence off a safe place for my birds?  I don’t want to lose anymore.”

He joked about just buying more sexlinks.  I told him, it wouldn’t be the same.  They wouldn’t be the same birds.

He started to suggest the chicken tractor and then said no, too much work.  This was at bedtime on Tuesday night.  We were brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed.  I could see ‘his gears turning’ and I knew he was thinking now.  He went up stairs, flopped up on the bed and said that he could build a fence, but how to do a gate?  Then he said, “no, I know how to do the gates.”

Then he asked me how big of an area I was talking about.  “Just the inner barnyard and a little bit of the pasture, maybe to the tree line, where Dad planted those trees.  Not the whole pasture.”

That’s what I told him.  It’s not too unreasonable.  The barnyard, some of the pasture where they play.

He said he’d need more money for material.  He has some of it, but not all.

It’s winter now and the ground is hard, so it might not get it built til spring.

But’s he’s going to build me the fence, like I wanted before.  It will be on me to keep wings clipped enough that they won’t fly over it.  Some of them will anyway, but I’m going to assume that given a bigger area that their run, they won’t be as tempted.  Especially if we give them to the tree line.

I just have to keep the rest of them safe til spring.

My heart is still broken for Ava, but at least her death has served some purpose.

I’ll be honest here, I love all my chickens, but the Golds were special.  They were our first, and they were special.  Also, they have a nicer temperament than the Rhode Island Reds, by a long shot.

 

I feel like a failure for not keeping them safer, or not pushing DH and Dad harder for the fence I knew was necessary. I may be getting one now, but at what cost? The life of a little girl I can’t just replace. 😦

7 thoughts on “The Post I’ve Been Dreading

    1. Even with their wings clipped, some of them fly over the top of the run. I know the same would true of a fence. It’s like kids, really. If they’re determined enough, the trouble will happen no matter what I do to prevent it. I just feel like we didn’t do all we could have done. And I also feel like I’m slowly watching my Golds die one by one. It’s heart breaking.

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  1. At least, your chooks look like they have it good. Way better than a lot of other chickens in the world. I try to think of how my birds’ lives were worth celebrating while I grieve for them. Each of them is truly unique and they have brought a lot of joy to a little piece of the world in their relatively short time with us. I hope you feel better soon.

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    1. You’re right. Each of these birds is unique and special in her own way. They came into my life when I was needing something, a project of my own, and I have been accused of spoiling them a bit more than I should. Treating like pets instead of chickens. I’ve spent days sitting in the barnyard laughing at their antics and talking to them all. For all the sadness, there is much happy bits to remember. Thank you!

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  2. Oh no! So sorry you have to go through the loss of another beloved feather child. Don’t blame yourself, we can never do everything to make their lives perfect. Sometimes things just go wrong without rhyme or reason. Reading this does make me feel like we should hurry up and chicken wire the paddock fence between us and our neighbours! I hope you feel better soon and can focus on the joys of having wee Pip – a worthy distraction from your sadness. =)
    -Twiglet

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    1. Pip has definitely been a good distraction. I have so enjoyed seeing what Pip and his momma are up to every morning. They have honestly broken down every perceived notion I had about mother hens and their chicks. As I speak, they are out in the run (I thought Abby would simply SIT on Pip for the next few weeks, since chicks in brooders need the heat lamp constantly) pecking and scratching at whatever food she can find them. (Pip has an easily accessible feeder of chick starter, but I think he only eats that when they are inside.) It’s definitely been an education having Pip around.

      I’m still kind of stunned from losing Ava. I can’t believe Abby and Dots are my only Golds left. It can’t be real, but it is. I’m glad Abby had Pip to keep her closer to home for a while.

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