A Sad Mid-Week Discovery

Saturday, February 25, 2012

We’ve had a busy week so far and tonight was the first time it seemed like we could relax a bit while going about the nightly chores. It was nice outside. We’ve had a strange winter of fluctuating temperatures, rain and wind storms. One day its cold and winter like, the next the thermometer shoots up to 70 and somewhere in between the winds from the east start to howl. My poor fruit trees don’t know whether to flower or go dormant and a few bulbs are already pushing their heads up out of the ground.

But tonight, it was temperate with just a hint that colder weather wanted to push in.

With a cup of tea in my glove clad hand I made my rounds from coop to hutch to pen and through the garden, checking on feed, replacing water, collecting eggs, making plans. It was during this stroll that I realized I hadn’t seen my four little Old English hens or our old black Cochin. I looked in all their favorite hiding places and places where they go to rest and lay eggs, but none were there. I thought that maybe they had flown over into my neighbor’s yard so I headed to the fence and took a peak over. Nope.

I stood in the garden, hands on my hips wondering where else I could look. That’s when I made the sad discovery. A flash of black and white caught my eye in the commercial tree nursery that abuts my back fence. Sure enough, when I looked over the fence there was one of my hens—dead. I thought maybe the others had scurried under the bushes for safety, but when I looked close I could see a pile of black and white feathers next to the fence. That was it…a hawk or owl or large feral cat had snatched my cute little birds. At barely two pounds they wouldn’t be hard to carry off. I had seen a red tail hawk a few days before, sitting on the rose arbor and we’ve heard the screech of an owl at night. I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly what took my little birds.

Life on a farm, even a suburban one, can be harsh and real. We can provide shelter and protection to our animals, but we can’t make them use it. They must be free to roam and care for themselves and at times be prey for the strong and more cunning. Don’t get me wrong, I was not glad to make this discovery. In fact, I hate losing animals. I’ve had plenty of that over the years. But, I am realistic enough to know that you can’t pamper livestock or shut them up in a Fort Knox barn. They wouldn’t like that. And, if it is their time, I can only say I would much rather they go for food in a “survival of the fittest” kind of way than killed by a trespassing dog just wanting to play.

® Photo Circa Simply San Juan.com

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