Things are not looking too good at our little farm right now. A combination of hot days, weeks without rain, and long hours at our regular jobs has been a recipe for near-disaster. Our sheep pasture looks like the dust bowl of 1936, our sweet corn field is more weeds than sweet corn, and last night, three of our hens were killed and dragged away, probably by raccoons.
When I took Jip out this morning for his little walk around the yard I noticed quite a few feathers in the grass outside the wire chicken run. Fearing the worst, I put him back in the house and went to investigate. Sure enough, there was one rooster and four hens. Three were gone, with nothing but feathers left in their place.
There was no blood on the ground, just the feathers on the ground near two gaps along the bottom of the chicken run. I checked over the chickens that were left and none looked injured. Luckily, our plucky little favorite, Georgia, was unharmed.
We've had Georgia since the summer of 2009, right after we graduated from college and moved back in with our parents in the Chicago suburbs. We picked her and her sisters up in a cheeping cardboard box at our city post office and raised her in my parent's backyard pottery shed. She then moved to the suburban vegetable farm where we worked together and then made the four-hour move to our little house in the country. Since then, she's lived with three different roosters, and many other hens. This is the second hen house raid she has survived.
Last weekend, I was counting in my head all of the animals we own and take care of, from sheep, chickens, rabbits, and dogs. We were responsible for 25 lives besides our own. And now we have three less. I feel terrible that we didn't even hear anything amiss. We didn't even know they were gone until I found the feathers left behind. I hated to call Joey at work and tell him about the hens.
I'm pretty sure it was raccoons because some of the contents of the compost pile were pulled out of the fenced-in structure. Tonight, Joey and I will have to work on fortifying the chicken coop. I started piling chunks of broken cement from a short sidewalk Joey tore up around the base of the chicken run before work this morning. We'll also have to figure out a way to make our compost heap less attractive to raccoons.
There's a lot about farming that makes you feel awfully guilty.