I got a call from my husband in the afternoon, “You’d better come out to the barn right away.” I dropped everything and hurried out the door because this did not bode well. He met me at the entrance and said, “All the chickens are gone.”
We began checking all the normal places. One dead chicken in the goat pen. Two in the coop. Feathers everywhere. One of the old hens, Arya, was hiding up in the rafters, and I gently lifted her down, petting and cooing calming noises. She ran out, squawking, to the yard.
We jumped into the golf cart to see if we could find the rest hiding somewhere. We found one baby pacing next to the woods at the far end of the pasture but too afraid to come out. We drove around looking for a trail of feathers or any other clues, and looped by the neighbors’ yard to see if their dogs were involved. Still no trace.
Where were all the babies? Where were the eight other adults? While my husband began digging a grave, I walked up and down the goat pasture looking for anything. There, I came upon Cooper, my dear rooster, dead in the grass.
I’m so distraught, angry, and confused, all I could do was quickly dig into tasks. I cleaned out the coop to remove traces of the carnage and give Arya a fresh start. I’d meant to do it in the spring but never got around to it, so it was the least I could do for her now. Joe came in and told me he’d found several more chickens buried under straw in the run, so he started digging another hole. I moved on with a pitchfork to clean out the chicken run and the goat pen, where I found a couple more bodies under the straw. I angrily moved on to hosing down the chicken run, taking out the brood box where the babies would go to escape the adults, and put down new straw.
By now, the lone baby had come back from the woods and was huddled next to Arya in the corner of the goat pen. We began putting away the tools and setting things as right as we could, dusty, dirty, and discouraged. I looked up and here came two of the babies peeking around the door into the barn. I yelled for Joe, who came running just as Prince Harry the baby rooster popped out from the corner to join the others. They’d been laying low and quiet in the bushes all that time and waiting for the coast to be clear.
In the end, we found five babies and Arya, herded them into the chicken run and locked them in, probably for the rest of their lives. It’s so sad, because they loved their free-range life. I just couldn’t bear to see this happen again.
I wish I knew just how this happened – how the predator(s) got into the pasture and the coop, who did it, and how we can prevent it in the future. We suspect the neighbor dog who killed one chicken last year, but what can we do if we did not catch him doing it? If it were a fox or a hawk, they would have taken one or two to eat, but dogs will kill just for the thrill of the chase.
Now that the rush of activity is over, there is nothing left but to mourn our losses. We’ll probably work on rebuilding the flock, but … Cooper was one of a kind in our lives.