Top 5 Horrible Ways that Chickens Die
What’s it like keeping a small clutch of chickens?
Well… it can be quite rewarding and therapeutic. There’s a lot of satisfaction in knowing and caring for the birds, plus you get eggs! Maybe that’s why we see a rise in Not-So-Pioneers that are keeping chickens.
Society seems so disconnected from things that feel real and having chickens is engaging to say the least. As with all things from crops to gardens to animals, sometimes they grow and sometimes they die. No matter what we have to pick up, regroup and keep going or start again. It makes me think of Mufasa talking to Simba about the “Circle of Life”.
With all the joy that chickens can bring, I have to be honest. For a while I was convinced that the purpose of keeping chickens while living deep in a heavily wooded area was to feed the local wildlife. The bags of feed go to the rodents and the live meat goes to the predators. Delicious!
I feel pretty confident that day or night our birds are safe these days, but it wasn’t always so. We have lost several chickens in the process of learning how to keep them safe and alive. I have a semi-dark sense of humour about it, because we were always doing our best to care for the chickens. We started with three hens until…
That’s right! Bird on Bird Poultricide! The first dead hen met her demise from a beak sized hole caused by her roommates. No surprise, sometimes chickens fight, but it’s relatively rare for hens to kill each other. Unless they draw a little blood. Then it’s “Blah-Blah-Blah, I’m Dracula!” It’s the sight of the blood that makes them peck at it by instinct and hopefully not malice. Pro Tip: If a chicken is bleeding, separate that chicken from the flock until they are healed. Unfortunately this happened overnight… and then there were two…
At first Ashlea was unwilling to believe that her beloved cannibal chickens had pecked one of their own into the grave. We had a few tear filled discussions on any and all possibilities, but nothing else fit. She was convinced it was a rodent and soon found out that a beak sized hole is certainly not a rodent’s way of doing the reapers work. A few weeks later a member of the weasel family, unknown assailant still at large, found its way into the coop. Rather than pecking, weasels seem to employ a distinct method of neck shredding. Sad really, but I’ve done some contracting in poultry processing, I’ve seen worse. She said: “What do I do with them now?” I sighed and said: “You can get me a bucket.” And the coop lay empty for a while….
We bought more chickens, hearty birds, fit for Canadian winters. Not long after, one of them somehow broke her thigh bone. There’s a lot of dark humour to be had in this article, but not so much with sepsis. If you’ve heard the old saying “Canary in a Coal Mine” that’s because any illness or infection in a bird is usually in fast forward compared to people. By the time we figured out that her injury caused the septic blood infection, we had to put the poor hen down. Here on My-Not-So-Pioneer-Life we’re not afraid to lay out our mistakes for you, and we’re not going to make it seem like everything is perfect. We want to show you how to bounce back, and not give up!
The day that Chicaletta arrived at Shawshank we knew she was a bird that couldn’t be caged, her feathers were just too bright. In the end she dug her way out of the coop while hiding her tunnel under a poster of Rita Hayworth, dumping the sand in the yard one handful at a time through holes in the pockets of her trousers.
No wait… that was the Shawshank Redemption. Oh, that’s right – this chicken was more of a roamer, eventually she found she liked it in the rough brush and gaps in the stones where our yard meets the bush. We tried to corral her in most nights, but the closer we got the further she went and the better she hid. She came back a couple times for breakfast, then one morning, she didn’t. Maybe she went to California, or perhaps she’s still out there. Roaming the wilds, fist-fighting coyotes and wrestling black bears.
“Swiper no swiping! Has its own meaning in My-Not-So-Pioneer-Life.”
Let me set the scene: Its 4:25pm, the school bus rolls up, the children jump down and everyone turns to walk up the driveway. There’s our “Little Roo” a Banty Rooster, a snuggly colourful little bird, with a sweet cock-a-doodle-doo and a shiny strut which defied his teeny-tiny stature.
In broad @%^$&*# daylight a fox had him by the neck. The rotten murderous thief looked Ashlea straight in the eye, gave Roo a final shake, and slithered back into the bush. When I got the call at work, I thought at first that I would have to leave, because “He’s dead, he’s gone, a fox took him!” and I couldn’t make sense of it, no fox could carry one of my kids off, ‘It’s a simple question of weight ratios’.
When I put it together that we were talking about the rooster, I was scolded for laughing. I liked Little Roo a lot, but to this day I still can’t help but giggle and admire the gall of that damn fox.
Chickens are a great addition to any home and area where they can be properly cared for and accommodated. We did our research, or at least we thought we did but there’s just some things you have to learn the hard way. Experience has taught us that until they get snatched, or sick, or injured newbie poultry parents are rarely exposed to the harsh realities of keeping chickens. There are lots of things you can prepare for, and build for and we continue to learn and grow with our birds always trying to keep our sense of humour.