Long time readers of this blog have heard me say it before: I don’t want this blog to be a sad place. It’s probably one reason I’ve chosen not to write much about animal welfare issues. Our new tagline does say, after all, “Barking About….Love, Health, and Our Purr-suit of Happiness.”
Sometimes the road to happiness is a very rough one. I’ve been having a difficult time pulling myself out of the sadness of losing our beagle Cricket. Many of my recent posts have been about how we’re trying to adjust to life without her. That’s OK….I know fellow pet lovers understand that, especially since many have left comments here saying just that.
It just doesn’t help when it feels like our hits in life just keep on coming. One way we’ve been pursuing happiness has been starting our little farm; which we did not long after losing our golden retriever Sheba. New and happy things can help with healing. However, things also don’t always go as planned, and we’ve hit another bumpy patch on that road to happiness as well.
When I put up my post last Friday of farm photos, some of what I’m going to tell you about had already happened, though the full story hadn’t played out yet. I wasn’t ready to write about it anyway, but I thought of something I had read or heard somewhere recently that resonated with me. Someone was talking about how social media leads to sadness in many people. Everyone puts their best foot forward out there, and many only post happy news and the high points of their lives….making those whose lives may not be going well feel even more alone. I’ve experienced that feeling myself.
My idyllic photos of a happy life on the farm last week were not the whole story. I feel like it’s important that we share the bad as well as the good here, and I try to be honest about those things, even if it takes me some time to be ready to sit down and write that truth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I feel obligated to share every detail of our lives, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m looking for sympathy either. It’s cathartic for me to write these stories, and that’s what blogs are supposed to be about (at least to my mind) – chronicling our lives, good and bad, while sharing things that can help others.
Sad News from the Farm
We lost two of our chickens this past week; and one of our Rhode Island Reds is injured; all by a fox. I was gone to meet with my bookkeeping client one evening, and the Dadz was with Luke having a nap on the couch after a long day at work. A commotion woke him, he saw the fox and scared it away, and it dropped the chicken it had at the time. Unfortunately, it seems it may have visited twice, and took one away before my hubby was awoken. It had happened right before I got home, there were feathers everywhere, and one hen was missing.
We know it’s a risk free-ranging our birds. It’s a similar dilemma to what we faced with Cricket. Should we not let her play ball at all, because it’s straining her heart and is risky? Or should we let her live her life still being able to do the one thing she loved more than anything?
Our birds are happy when they’re outside; when I open the coop in the morning, they can’t wait to get out. I see them wandering the yard, pecking at everything, taking dust baths, lying in the sun….enjoying life. It’s such a joy to watch them. When we had to put them in the coop early that night after the attack, they were squawking and carrying on, they were not happy!
We thought we could manage things, after all, we had seen foxes before and successfully deterred them from coming back. We tried putting the birds inside earlier in the evening when we could. That night, we got everyone in the coop except one guinea hen. We did get her to the garage where she stayed until it was almost dark. The darkness makes it easier to capture them – not that it was easy, mind you! But the Dadz finally got a hold of her and we took her to the coop. They stayed inside in the mornings when I was busy, and then Luke and I patrolled the perimeter of the yard before we let them out.
We made our presence known in the evenings by spending much more time outside. We did see the fox again the next day, but the guineas alerted us, and I was able to chase it away. But just three days later I had patrolled the yard, then went inside to feed Sam and Luke. I was just getting ready to go back outside again when we heard a commotion. The guineas were carrying on, some of the hens were huddled together in another area, and one was missing. We got everyone put inside and I went looking for her. I found her body in the woods.
We thought it odd, since our research had turned up the fact that this fox was probably feeding her young. As it turned out, we later found out she had probably left that one to come back and get later, while she circled around to go for more. Thank goodness we had stayed outside with them before getting them inside the coop.
We are facing the fact now that we can’t let them free range, not unless we’re outside with them every minute, and at least not until after spring when the wildlife is feeding their young. The Dadz needs to build a secure run so we can let them get outdoors at least some. But right now, we have been faced with two days of freezing rain, sleet, and snow, so the poor birds have been confined to the coop, and it’s been impossible to work outside. It will only be temporary and it’s just as well they haven’t been outside in the nasty weather anyway. Yesterday was extremely windy, ice was falling off our roof in sheets, and branches from trees were falling down everywhere (many in our area lost power, but we didn’t).
Luckily our injured chicken Mama Red is holding her own and seems to be healing well. We will keep treating her wound and hope that continues. I know this is all part of farm life; most people who keep poultry will tell you of losses to predators or disease. One friend of ours had commented when ours were young that she couldn’t believe we hadn’t lost any chicks when we were raising them; many people do.
Those two chickens we lost didn’t have their own names. I can’t tell all the birds apart, so I call each one “Mama” and then their breed (there were 4 of each breed). Mama (Rhode Island) Red, Mama Buff (Orpington), and Mama G (Golden Comet). It was Mama Buff and Mama G that we lost, and their lack of individual names doesn’t make us any less sad about it. Each bird is an integral part of the flock, and I feel awful for letting them down and not keeping them safe.
I’m so ready for this black cloud that seems to be over us lately to go away (literally too….it’s supposed to rain here all week). I try to focus on the positives in our lives; some days I succeed, others I don’t. In one of my recent posts about life without Cricket, our friend Jodi at Heart Like a Dog commented with some sage advice: “Hang onto the love when it gets hard.” That’s what we’re also writing about here: love. There’s no denying it, love can hurt, but in the end it’s what keeps us going too. As far as the happiness? It’s there too, sometimes it just gets lost a bit and it takes work and time to find our way back to it.
Ruby and Kristin says
Oh my gosh, I am so sorry. I commend you for sharing about your struggles honestly and sharing your loss from the fox. I can’t imagine how sad it must have been finding her body in the woods. Life and love are hard and sometimes we just have to the best we can. XOXO
Thank you. I am learning you have to be tough to be a farmer, though I doubt I’ll ever really get to that point. Every loss is going to be hard….but it is part of life and goes with the territory. Better to have loved and lost, right? ♥
You sound very diligent and conscientious in a difficult situation – raising prey around so many predators. Keep up the good work and be proud you saved Mama Red. I’m a bit jealous of all your rain; we’re having a drought in Colorado right now. We had a drier than needed winter and spring.
I’m a little bit behind but I wanted to leave you a comment here. I think that it is incredibly important to let our readers know that life isn’t always easy. I get so tired of instagram, where everyone appears to be on vacation in the sunshine every single day. I totally understand how you must feel. The loss of Cricket is huge and will weigh on your hearts very heavily for quite a while. Then, those chickens… hmm, that must really hurt. I admire that you’re not angry at the wildlife. You seem to have a very reasonable view of where your chickens fit into the fox’s lives. I hope that you can figure out a way to let the chickens out safely. I am visualizing a covered run… but I know it takes time to build such a thing.
Hang onto sweet Luke – his love will help you through.
Thank you so much. We have a temporary run now and hope to have something a little more heavy duty in time.
I have to admit I was a little mad at the fox when I found our Buff hen in the woods. I can understand hunting for food, but leaving her there just made it feel like it was sport (but then I learned it may have planned to come back for her). But still, I understand that the wild is theirs as well, and I’d like to live peaceably with all of the wildlife as much as we can. Hopefully in time this fox goes to hunting somewhere else so our girls can get at least some freedom back.
Luke is definitely what’s getting me through this! 🙂
M. K. Clinton says
Bless your heart. I am so sorry that you lost some chickens. I’m sure the continuation of winter weather hasn’t helped your spirits but hopefully, the sun will shine down on you soon. Y’all are doing an awesome job on the farm and I’m sure the summer will bring lots of happiness your way. ♥
Thank you so much, Melissa. Now that we’re finally getting spring and things are settling down, we are definitely feeling better and more optimistic about things.
caren gittleman says
My heart is just breaking for you. I know how hard this had to be to write. I also am confident that you will think of a solution. I know loss is part of life, but if there is a way to deter any more foxes (or coyotes or whatever) from harming your chickens, I am certain you will do that. Sending (((hugs))) of comfort and much love.
Thank you, Caren! We are not going to give up on this venture….we’ll figure it out. ♥
Shadow & Ducky's Mom says
As Jodi said, “you can only do the best you can”. And, for as long as I’ve known you, I’ve only known you to do just that – your best – for all your animals. I know there’s sunshine and happier times. And your friends – and family – will be there for you through it all.
Thank you for being there, Sue. ♥
I’m sorry you lost a couple of your chickens. Farm life is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Free-ranging sounds like a difficult thing to do in your area since you have so much wildlife and top predators. I think you mentioned you even had bear! Hopefully you can find a way to keep everyone happy and as safe as possible.
Yes, you are right, we have had bears. We are diligent about no bird feeders in the summer now, and keeping our trash locked up so we haven’t seen any sign of them for a while now (but our neighbors actually lost their flock to bears).
I think we’ll be able to find a balance with the new pen, and hopefully letting them free range sometimes when things settle down.
Ellen Pilch says
I am so sorry. XO
I’m so sorry for the loss of your two Mamas. I know how special those chickens are and I love seeing their personalities coming through in your posts, so I can’t imagine having to deal with that heartbreak on top of the rest of life. I hope that you can find a way to give your chickens the freedom they love and still be able to protect them–on a recent episode of Fixer Upper, they did a cool chicken runway through their garden that kept the chickens from being able to eat their plants but let them run through the different parts of the garden to eat bugs and enjoy the freedom, so I’m sure that you can be just as creative!
Thank you, Beth.
That sounds so cool! Another friend told me about that episode too. I’m going to have to try to find it and watch it. Not that I’ll probably get my hubby on board with being that elaborate! LOL
Jodi Stone says
I’m so sorry to hear this Jan, I know how hard it must be on you and the Dadz, especially so soon after the loss of Cricket. I had a co-worker that had chickens, and they lost a number of them to fox as well. Like you said about letting Cricket catch her ball, and weighing that out with free ranging the chickens. There is always risk, especially on a farm. You can only do the best you can. Now you are aware of the fox and you will take precautions. Hopefully, you can find a way to deter her. Is there anything they are afraid of?
Jodi Stone says
Also, thanks for the mention!
You’re welcome! I felt bad because I forgot to put a link to your site in there, so I fixed that. 🙂
I think the only thing that really works is if we are out there – they are afraid of humans. So when the weather gets better and we are outside more we should be able to give them some freedom. Hopefully also, taking them away now will make her move on to elsewhere to hunt. Once we get the pen built and they can be outside (safely) we will probably find out if she’s going to start coming around again.
2 Brown Dawgs says
Sorry that happened. I hate foxes almost as much as I hate coyotes. I cringe when we catch sight of them on our trail cam figuring they will get the bunnies that hang in the yard.
We used to have foxes at our other house, and enjoyed watching them sometimes. But that was before we had chickens! I’m no longer a fan!
Sally Hummel says
I’m so very sorry to hear about the tragic loss of your hens! We have Cooper’s Hawks nesting in our front yard, and we know our forested songbirds, squirrels, bunnies and chipmunks all feed the babies. It’s one thing to know these things and another to be confronted with the raw truth like I was last summer when I saw a hawk carry off a young bunny! That image haunted me for days! When we love critters, any of them being hurt or killed is going to be rough….and these sweet hens were part of your pack! It’s no wonder you feel a sense of profound sadness and loss! Sending you big hugs and hope for an arrangement that protects your girls but also lets them be who they are in life as well!
You are so right about all of that, Sally. I could never watch those realistic nature shows because they made me so sad sometimes! We knew this could happen….but it still doesn’t prepare you for the reality of it. We’re figuring things out and we’ll make it all work somehow.
Dolly the Doxie says
So sorry to hear about the chickens! And I understand about the sadness, and what social media can do to you, so I avoid it sometimes to. I’m gonna check with my chicken raising cousin about the fox. Hang in there you have so much to be proud of! Sandra and Dolly
Thank you so much, Sandra and Dolly! We will hang in there…this is a bump in the road but we’ll still keep going forward!
Crystal and Daisy Mae says
sorry for the loss of your chickens. When we lose an animal friend it’s hard.
Thank you. ♥
Sand spring Chesapeakes says
I’m so sorry for the loss of your chickens. I agree you should right about everything that happens on the farm as others can relate and learn what MSU or may not happen in case they ever want to pursuit that type of life. It’s unfortunate that happened and always sad but I too agree the birds probably would take that chance to be able to be free rangers. Even with my birds in a big pen with a net the hawks and eagles can still swoop down and grab them and injure them trying to get them out. Hugs and love!!
Thank you, JoAnn! We’ll keep them in the pen for a while. They weren’t very happy at first, but they seem to be adjusting now. Hopefully in time the fox moves on so we can let them have some (supervised) free ranging time.
Edie Chase says
I’m sorry for your loss. Chickens become part of your family too. I hope you’re able to deter that fox. I’m hoping Spring will come to New England soon. I love your header on the home page.
Thank you so much about the new header, Edie! I’m so glad you like it. It was tough to figure out what to do at this point….but I like what I came up with too.
Spring is finally here – yay!
Mary Hone says
Oh no, that’s hard. Sadly, now the fox knows were an easy meal is. Maybe you need a goose or two. They are great watch dogs….geese….and I believe will attack a fox. Maybe check that fact. I hope you get sunshine, and all things good and happy very soon.
We will definitely keep the geese in mind! We had hoped our guineas would attack and scare off the fox, and while they do put up a fuss, and did march towards it….unfortunately they didn’t scare it off. Then I worried it would get one of them! But they can get away more easily by flying, so at least that is something. Though for now we’re keeping everyone penned up until the fox hopefully moves on.
Monika & Sam says
So sorry you’ve experienced more loss lately. When my daughter raised her chickens, they too were attacked by a fox, in fact, more than once. Reinforcing the coop and enclosure areas is pretty much all you can do (and keep a visual presence to deter the varmints). Hopefully together your strategies will keep the ‘girls’ safe. Thinking of you and sending some sunshine…for your heart and your farm.
We are finally getting the sunshine you sent, and it definitely makes us feel more optimistic. 🙂
Brian Frum says
That’s very sad and I’m so sorry you are dealing with the sneaky foxes, they are tough to outsmart but I know you will figure out how to keep everyone safe.
Such a bummer about the fox and the chickens, but it is nature and nature can’t be changed. It is a real predicament for the future with the chickens. Hope no one else gets hurt and you get some better luck soon. On the positive side, we got the mailchimp email this morning 🙂 Nice.
Hopefully the email finally being fixed is a sign that things are turning around! 🙂
Roby Sweet says
That is a lot of loss in such a short time, and having crappy weather on top of it only makes it seem worse. But those clouds won’t last forever. Sending you warm thoughts of sunshine, healing, and better days ahead.
Thank you….your warm thoughts must have worked! We are finally getting better weather and our spirits have lifted a little. ♥
Auntie Sheryl says
So sorry for all of your recent losses. Cricket had an amazing, happy life. Your chickens do too. Better days are coming…and hopefully better weather!