Last Monday was one of the saddest I have experienced here on the farm, another death, and this time it was murder. Two years ago, I brought home a bunch of day old chicks from the local tractor supply store. I picked out two of each kind they had, so I ended up with a hodge podge breeds. I will confess, I was never a chicken lover. I suffered salmonella poisoning not one, not two, but three times due to chicken. So I can honestly say, I had no idea that I would fall head over heels for these little fluffs of feathers.
One hen, more than any other, stood out from the flock as they grew up happy and healthy running around the barn, pasture and garden. It was not just her striking black and white plumage, or her Polish wig feathers, it was her personality. We fondly named her Cruella Deville, the character from one of my favorite childhood Disney movies due to her crazy looking head dress.
Our flock only go into a coop at night for their safety, otherwise, they are free to roam during the day. They love their freedom. You can see them from the back porch and the side porch busily going back and forth, one minute out by the barn, the next up by the cows in the front pasture and then ending their day nearby the coop in the organic garden area. It is not idyllic as we have lost a few of them to everyday tragedy, a drowning in a trough, a raid by a neighbors dog, 2 stray cat attacks and the various mysterious attack from time to time. In the very beginning we even lost a few to an attack in the coop, but we had modified it over the years to make it more secure, but alas nothing is forever.
After securing the coop one more time, we were sure that all was well. We even delivered several dozen of our eggs to friends in the city that Sunday evening, as they are coveted by our foodie city dwelling friends. But alas, Monday morning turned out to be the saddest day of all. Our mare Star came to us with a newborn foal and a surprise pregnancy from her previous home. Our yearling Skully was born last year in February, so I knew the new foal would be here any day. Every morning I would go out and check on her to see when we would need to place her in the barn by herself for the impending birth. I was thinking about the horses on this very windy morning and had no idea what I was about to encounter.
As I walked past the coop on the way to the barn, I saw that there was a cat in the live trap. It was a Persian that we had seen roaming around on our property. I suspected she had been dumped by her city family, as countless other domestic house pets get dumped out in the country. It's a sad situation for all involved. Most farmers shoot stray animals that come onto their property. Lucky for this cat, we have enough compassion to know that this was once someones pet. Instead of shooting her, we were taking her to the local feed store. The owner there would give her a new home to help with mice control in the feed warehouse. I was so glad we had caught her, because now I felt like we had possibly solved the flock murders (both inside the coop and out). People should NEVER dump their animals out in the country, their chances of survival are slim and they can cause heartache to others. More free range chickens are killed by dogs and cats than any wild animal.
I took the trap with the cat in it and moved it out of the wind, Andy could transport her later to the feed store. I then opened the coop and my heart hurt. Cruella was in the bottom of the coop, not much was left of her, but I recognized her beautiful feathers. I never thought I could cry so much for a chicken, but to me she was my pet. I loved her so and she was the life of the flock. Oh how guilty I felt, as we had not protected her enough. How could the coop still be unsafe? It's still so hard to talk about that I'm sobbing trying to write about this coherently. Cruella, you will always have a special place in my heart. You changed my mind about chickens and I thank you for that.
But wait, this entry was about extreme sadness but also extreme happiness. After four days of sadness, a bright spot of happiness emerged on the farm. She came in the form of all legs and long ears. Star had a real surprise for us in the wee hours of Thursday, February 24th. She delivered a beautiful paint filly. My heart once again was filled with love. Love for a newborn, born healthy and full of spirit. Star is a beautiful chestnut paint and so is Skully, her first colt. This newborn completely surprised us as she is a beautiful dark silver and white (possibly turning to black & white), reminding me of another pet that we just laid to rest. The world really does work in mysterious ways.