Yesterday was tough. Our morning started off simple enough. I fed the chickens and let them out into their little makeshift run just as I had done the day before. We had bacon and eggs for breakfast and then headed over to the in-laws for a morning of mulching before heading back home for a birthday party next door. As soon as we got home I put both boys down for a nap and no sooner had I done that Brent came running into the house screaming "Keep the boys inside!" Then at a harsh whisper he said "They're all dead." For a second I thought he was messing with me, but then I realized he wouldn't go that far. I ran as fast as I could to the backyard and my stomach dropped. There were dead chickens scattered all around the coop. They just looked like they were sleeping.
After the initial grim shock wore off I went into action mode. Brent was starting to talk to neighbors to see if anyone had heard/seen anything. I began to fully assess the carnage before grabbing a garbage bag. I went to the closed coop door, opened it, and peered in. And hidden in the corner was a chick. I had to get into the coop to get a closer look as she had made herself so tiny, but she was there and she was alive! The one chicken we had not yet named survived. She has a name now: Lucky. I then went into survivor mode. Chickens are social animals so she shouldn't be left on her own for long. I started searching Craigslist and made phone calls to our relatives with chickens. I was going to make this better. I had a mission. I couldn't undo what happened but I could refuse to stay stuck and push through to getting closer to where we started our day.
We're 99% sure the culprit was a bird dog that belongs to a friend of our neighbor's. We are heartbroken. We're mad at ourselves for being naive with our flimsy fencing and mad at that stupid dog's owner for allowing him to run around the neighborhood without supervision (as he always does when he visits). Needless to say we learned our first hard farming lesson: animals die. We knew this was coming but we didn't anticipate it wiping out almost our entire flock, even though that scenario is not all that uncommon. Just because someone tells you it happens doesn't mean you know how you'll feel about it actually happening to you. I cried as I picked up 7 dead chickens yesterday. I swore a lot. A LOT. Swearing is cathartic for me in times of grief and anger [luckily the boys were asleep].
When Noah woke up I had to tell him what happened. I waited for the yawns to stop and the sleep to be rubbed out of his eyes before telling him they were gone. Of course he cried, I cried more, and I held him. We spoke about how it's ok to be sad and even more ok to cry when you're sad. We talked conspiracy theories (he loves those) and he took some time alone in his room. After about 20 minutes he was good with his grief for the moment and headed to play with the neighbor kids.
There was a silver lining to this mess: about a month ago Brent's aunt was so kind as to take our last five chicks off our hands so we would be down to a manageable suburban number. I called her yesterday to ask her advice on the lone chicken as well as see if she was ok giving back those five ladies. Bless her heart, she was! She had taken them as a favor to us, but had other chicken plans in motion that ours kind of got in the way of. So I drove 90 minutes with a two year old to her farm to pick up our new old ladies after a month of separation. Because that's what you do at 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon when you're sad, desperate, and worried about the well-being of your one remaining chick.
I got home around 6:15 and we called Noah over to help introduce the ladies to their new home. He was happy to have another flock but said "I'm still sad though." "Me too buddy, me too." So long ladies (and rooster) of Flock #1. We loved you more than we knew. And ladies of Flock #2: Welcome. We are committed to building you a stronger run and loving on you just the same. [Pics of Flock #2 to come in the future]