We lost two hens today.
I spotted a neighbour’s dog in our yard as I was going back to the shop from the pasture to get another styrofoam decagone to stuff into the culvert to get the winter water pumps installed. I thought it was our dairy calf Simon at first, but there was a meaner look to him. I ran towards him, saw piles of feathers and a hen run past me. I chased the dog back to his property, completely distraught and probably wailing.
At first, I couldn’t see any of the hens. I eventually found one, unscathed, held and hugged her, and put her safely in her coop. All alone. I found another in the shop later on, this one with half of her back feathers missing and a sad looking scar on her back. I made sure she could still get up to the roosts and nesting boxes and tucked them in for the night, heavy hearted.
These hens are the closest thing I’ve had to a pet in over a decade. They follow me around the yard and in the garden, and are such a pleasure to have, free ranging about, eating the compost, holding their own with the barn cats, playing around the sand piles with kiddo. Along with our dairy duo, the hens make this place a farm to me. More than the cattle herds which are often too far from the house to hear or see them, or the farm machinery strewn about the yard.
I am so sadenned by this loss. I know this is a cattle farm and animals die for us to make a living. But these weren’t meat birds. They were friend birds.
Hopefully we’ll be able to get a few guest birds to share the coop this winter. Heating a chicken coop can be a bit of a fire hazard (straw + heat + closed coop), so the best thing to do, I’ve read, is to make sure you have enough birds to produce enough heat to keep themselves warm. A duo will surely be cold in there.