A Dead Chicken

I unwrap the black plastic bundle the Bearded One has carefully tied up with twine.  I must see the remains of Blackie, one of our 7-month-old banty hens, who was killed while I napped.

Blackie looking at the camera after giving Tux a lecture. RIP Blackie.

The neck and head is a gruesome red skeleton, all of the feathers gone and the flesh chewed or pecked off, but the head is still attached.  And the rest of the body is intact.  It’s a waste, and I stroke the wings the Bearded One and I carefully clipped 4 months ago in November.  They finished growing back out many weeks ago, but Blackie never tried to escape.

I take a picture to email to our neighbor, Momma Goose, for her expert help in guessing the predator responsible — eagle (or other raptor), raccoon, coyote, or weasel.  And then I cry as I wrap the body again and put it back in the trash.  I am surprisingly sad.

Blackie was the fiercest fighter of the hens, standing up to the roosters Tux and Steve daily before they left for the auction.  She was the second hen to go broody, but she snapped out of it with just a couple of cold baths.  She was a loudmouth and a good layer.  And she was beautiful, with lots of translucent blue mixed in with her black.

“You can’t go running every time a chicken squawks,” says the Bearded One the next morning as I’m counting soup spoons for the big family shindig happening here at the farmlet in an hour.

He’s right, and I really don’t blame myself for her death.  There are many hungry critters in the woods.  Still, I’m still a bit traumatized, I guess.  I plot a quick mental trip through the five stages of grief.

Denial — I’m fine, it’s no big deal that I heard some squawking but chose to continue my nap.

Anger — What horrible, opportunistic, evil critter did this?  I will set a trap or otherwise make them pay.

Bargaining — If I go running every time I hear squawking, will there be no more deaths?

Depression — We’re on the radar of some predator now who’s had a taste of blood and all the chickens are doomed.

Acceptance — The party guests will be here in half an hour.  Get movin’.

Eleven guests gather in the living room, including my mother and sister and all three of our Twenty-Something kids.  They and everyone else listen politely as I tell the story of Blackie’s death.  Of the pile of black feathers in the lower pasture, of the blood stain on the ground, the horror of the wound, and of the puzzle of the predator.

“Eagles will generally take their prey off site, and will consume large amounts of a chicken or duck.”  I am reading a portion of Momma Goose’s email response to the party.  “Raccoons, on the other hand will kill on site or drag the victim close by, consume small amounts and then abandon the remaining carcass.  A coyote will leave a hell of a mess behind, feathers everywhere, and sometimes a trail of blood can be followed but rarely will you find a carcass.  A weasel will drain your chickens of their blood (like a vampire) and leave behind a virtually intact carcass.”

I finish reading.  The room is silent as we all listen to the rain and the wood crackling in the woodstove.  I’ve killed the party, I think.  Such a downer.

But everyone starts talking, offering versions of the murder and suggestions.  Perhaps there were TWO predators, had we thought of that?  Maybe the goats scared the predator off and that’s why the body was intact.  Someone points out that it’s illegal to harm an eagle.  Someone else says cougars are returning to the area, he’s seen it in the newspaper.

Our oldest daughter is sitting on the couch cuddling with her boyfriend.  I remember talking with her in November about how chickens can fly and that we were preparing to clip their wings so they could free range safely.  Our daughter had just met her boyfriend then — I had offered to clip his wings if she felt it was necessary in order to keep him around.  It wasn’t necessary, and he is still around.

In fact, he has an idea.  “A scare eagle,” he says, sitting forward with the vision of it.  “You know, like a scarecrow, but a big ‘ol fake eagle mounted on the fence!”

Ha!  Our daughter laughs so loudly and heartily with such a full-throated cackle, everyone in the room laughs, too.

It’s called the Texas Laugh, and yes, she inherited it from me.  The Bearded One says it’s kind of like what you’d get if you shot a donkey on the butt with a BB gun.

Today, though, it’s surely the sound of Blackie the loudmouth chicken getting in the last word.


11 responses to “A Dead Chicken

  1. Christi- I’m torn between being super sad for you and laughing my ass off. I’m so sorry about Blackie. What a tragedy. But WOW what a learning experience. Who knew there were so many ways for a chicken to meet his/her demise?

  2. R.I.P. Blackie…..if there is a chicken heaven what would it look like?Personally I can’t imagine it being any better or well appointed then your Farmlet. I’m glad you cried, it’s important that Blackie’s too brief life had an impact, however small. Also, don’t blame the predator, it’s the way of life. Whatever killed Blackie was just like the rest of us….simply trying to survive…At least Blackie’s life and death had meaning, which is more than you can say for some of the Earth’s inhabitants! Bless you Blackie, I hope you’re cackling up a storm at the giant henhouse in the sky. We, the other loud mouthy chicks of the Earth will do our best to carry on! ❤

  3. Ohhhh, no not our happy, chicken egg chickens! But you made the tragedy seem so funny at the end…LOL! What a gift you have!

  4. Christine Widman

    I agree – R.I.P. Blackie. A short but sweet life on your farmlet.
    Survival of the fittest???
    A luminous luscious full moon last night.
    For the first time in our 10 years here, a dog bark-yowled for almost two hours. I don’t think it was the moon. I finally called Animal Protection after an hour of the jaw gratingly irritating racket.
    If it had been a coyote yipping, I would have opened our door to listen in rapture.
    What is the difference in the sound to my ears?
    Am I on the side of the eagle and hawk and coyote and bobcat?
    It seems they have a tougher life yet live it with such wild grace and beauty.
    Ahhh…the abundant drama and comedy of humans & animals on this planet.
    Thank you so much for this beautifully written Obit for Blackie.

  5. marie overturf

    I enjoy the comments of your friends as much as I do your weekly stories. Of course I am privileged to hear your stories in person, too. The farm is picture perfect, The painter, Kincaid, perhaps could do it justice. Great family gathering to experience joy and sadness together. love, Mom

  6. Do you live in texas? My son is heading over to texas in June to meet a girl that he met online. There is something about Texas that brings out the kindred spirit in we Aussies. I was born and raised in Western Australia, the pioneer outback “Texas” (if you will) of Australia and know what its like to be HOT. We just checked the temperatures (in the low 30C’s at the moment) last night and were having a secret snigger about how our heat hating son is going to pretend to love it in the June heat and wondering how this poor Texan girl is going to take heading back here for a ‘holiday’ in the middle of our winter. Cheers for following Serendipity Farm. I decided to follow your blog because I really felt a lineal similarity between what you guys are doing and what we are trying to do here. I found some amazing photos of your wonderful hand made hoop tunnel and was smitten with possibilities. I am sorry about your hen being killed. There isn’t much here that will kill a hen but the odd quoll (sort of a ferretty catty native weaselly spotty weird thing but then EVERYTHING in Australia is like that ;)) will eat a hen and feral cats and roaming dogs do a fair bit of damage.

    I look forwards to settling down over many cups of morning tea in the future to read about you and your families exploits. I dare say I will learn a lot from you and having a dog that my daughters call “The Frackoon” (they say he looks like a fox crossed with a racoon…I say they are nuts!) who is predisposed to his twin parentage desire to eat the odd hen (even though to date he has only managed to pluck the odd indignant hen and not kill them) I might have to learn about racoon management. They look so cute, but as with men…the cutest ones are the most dangerous! Have a great day/night whatever it is that you are having when you read this comment and I hope to see you soon in my inbox. Feel free to drop by Serendipity Farm anytime (day or night someone is usually up) for a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit (we are friends now so you get the good biscuits). See you soon

  7. Hi narf77! I’m still laughing at your description of a quoll!! I must look this critter up. I don’t think we have them here, but we don’t have kangaroos, either. And, yes, the Bearded One and I are both from Texas. I was raised in Houston (hot and humid and flat) and the B.O. in Midland (hot and dry and flat). It’s a long story of how we ended up here after meeting in college in Waco…but I’ve been here since 1979 and him since 1996. Texas is very different from here (Seattle area) in more ways than climate, as you say, the wild outback. It seeps into the character, for good or bad. We go back to Texas to see the B.O.’s folks in Crockett every year, and I’m always stunned we’re in the same country! I love so many Texans, though. And I hope your son and his Texas girlfriend can navigate their different homelands together successfully. Love can do anything. What town is she from? Oh, I loved your observation about raccoons and men. So true.:) I’m looking forward to reading Serendipity Farm and keeping in touch!

  8. Christine Widman

    A year later and last night I listened again in wonder to coyote music.
    A new gravelly sounding voice has been added to the chorus. As I listened, I wondered…one of the coyotes is getting old? A young one has reached puberty and his voice is cracking?
    Their moon-night yippings stir me still. I never tire of it after almost 11 years now.
    I love re-reading your blog.

    • Young roosters also have to test out their crowing and get the octaves right. It’s interesting and sometimes quite hilarious. I love that you re-read these old blogs, Christine. Was that a year ago??? I say to myself. I’m still there! Love you.

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