This is a post I know I have had to write for weeks now but couldn't bring myself to do it because it is so sad but alas the longer i leave it the more seems to be added to the sadness so here goes. In my last post I was bubbling with the joys of chicken keeping and excited to be on the road to our farm. We knew getting chickens there would come a time, as with any pet, or life for that matter, for sadness but we hoped it would be many years (and eggs) away.
The first stumble came when my poor little Tullulah became egg bound. It was our first time of seeing this and took us a while to work out was happening. She was so poorly and the vet wanted to put her down but we nursed her through it and she managed against all odds to lay the egg. She got better so quickly after that and, after a bout of bully, settled in with the others again and started growing feathers at a rapid rate.
Our next blow was a big one and came 5 weeks after getting the girls. During the day they stayed in the secure run but when we got in from work and at weekends we would let them out in the garden to free range. At first we nervously watched them like new parents but as the weeks went by we would nip inside the house for something and relaxed as all seemed ok. On the bank holiday Sunday evening we had gone in the house to sort out tea nipping to check on them every ten minutes or so.
After tea I went to look through the window and saw a mass of feathers on the ground and knew what had happened straight away. I couldn't bring myself to go outside so Brian went out and slowly walked round the garden from chicken to chicken shaking his head. Suddenly I spotted movement in the top corner of the garden. A young fox was jumping up and down at the 6 foot high, barbed wire fence trying to escape! I knock on the window and pointed to it. Brian looked at the fox not knowing what to do just as it managed to pull itself over the fence. It had killed Tinkerbell outright, Tullulah was very badly injured and Brian couldn't find the other two. I was so upset and felt like we had failed them.Brian found Ginger under a bush with lots of feathers missing but we couldn't tell how injured. We decided to put her in a box until we had found Tikka and sorted Tullulah who was in a much worse state. Brian walked around the coop where he had walked a few times before. This time he spoke as he walked pass the bushes and there was an answering cluck from inside! Tikka had managed to fly 5 foot up onto a branch and hide there silently inches from where the fox escaped on the very day we talked about clipping her wings! Tikka hated being picked up more than the others put together but Brian held out his hands and she jumped into them completely unharmed.One look at Tullulah and I knew she would never make it to the vets (who I had on the phone). Both her wings were broken and her lungs punctured. Brian made the brave decision of putting her out of her misery himself. I was so proud of him for being able to do it as I knew I couldn't. We know we will have to face things like this on the farm but 5 weeks in seemed a bit too steep a learning curve!
We looked at Ginger and at first she seemed ok and we hoped we have two left but then I heard the tell tale wheezing sound as she breathed and knew her chest had been punctured too. We took her to the vets who put her down for us.
That left us with one brave little chicken all alone in her run. She spent all Monday morning looking for the others and we knew we couldn't leave her on her own. We found a farm close to us that re-homes ex-bats and so went up in the afternoon to get two new ladies.
The lovely Suki
and beautiful BellaI wish I could say that's the end of the sadness but unfortunately it's not. 2 weeks after getting the new ladies as they started to settle in we noticed the tell tale signs that Bella was egg bound. She had laid 2 shell-less eggs since we got her so we were expecting a problem with her first proper egg. She was obviously struggling to lay but was still sat up and walking around, unlike Tullulah. We hoped she would be ok but unfortunately she didn't make it through last night :(
Callum pointed out that out of 6 ex-bats we've only lost 1 to illness which is about average but we are still feeling like the unluckiest chicken keepers going and are pretty sure we've been cursed by the chicken gods.
We know that life and death are part of farming but to have so many deaths and very few lives left in such a short space of time is disheartening to say the least but we will travel along our path with the new lessons we've learned on the road to our dream. I guess a dream wouldn't be worth it if it was easy to achieve?