Life Lessons From the Coop

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We lost Salt this weekend.
 
When we decided to add chickens to our menagerie, I knew the risks. We live in a subdivision, but we also live in a forest. A river borders our property. And we've always loved spying wildlife in our backyard. Deer. Possums. Squirrels.
 
Raccoons.
 
Although the girls free-range in a protected area in our backyard, we lock them away in the coop at night to keep them safe.
 
After all, these are Kiki's babies.
 
Who knew how sly a raccoon could be—or how vicious. Not only did it open two latches, causing the girls to scatter into the dark at 3 a.m.--it refused to give up Salt, hissing at me and standing its ground while I yelled at it and tried to make it run. It finally, finally left the area when I shook a tarp at it—but it didn't go far. I stood watch while Peter searched for the girls.


Salt


Thankfully, they hadn't flown to the forest, and within an hour—we had them all safely tucked away. They were nervous but unharmed.
 
Except poor Salt.
 
We were hopeful, though.
 
At 5:30 a.m., our wonderful vet met my girlie and me at the clinic while Peter stood guard in case the raccoon returned.
 
Dr. Hurlbert examined Salt, explained the extent of her injuries, and discussed what she might do, all while being as gentle as possible to my devastated girl. She explained that the damage to Salt's beak and her back wounds would require surgery, and even then—there was no guarantee. Best case scenario—we would need to tube feed her until her beak healed. She also worried that the bacteria from the raccoon could make Salt septic.
 
We asked her to try her best, and left Salt in her care.
 
I know what you're thinking.
 
It's a chicken, for goodness sake! Who spends $400 on surgery for a chicken?
 
We do.
 
Sadly, Salt couldn't be saved. Her injuries were too extensive, and even if she survived, Dr. Hurlbert told me that she would be in constant pain.
 
I had to tell Kiki.
 
My poor, sweet chicken mama.
 
When I picked up Salt from Dr. Hurlbert's office, they had this for Kiki:
 
 
I am so thankful for our wonderful vet (who, by the way, did not charge us $400.)
 
Peter is frantically trying to finish the already-in-progress chicken palace—a fortress-like building that no raccoon can infiltrate.
 
Until then, guess who is living in our basement after dark, under house arrest?
 
 
Yes. I know. It's not a pretty sight. (Or smell.)
 
Our weekend tragedy makes me question what I'm teaching our children.
 
Yes, Kristen loves animals, and that's one reason we have so many—but the chickens, while pets, are also supposed to teach a lesson about food sources and eating locally. Obviously, we never intended to eat her chickens—but what values am I instilling in her about local food? She eats her girls' eggs. But now, after I held poor, injured Salt and tried to comfort her, I have to admit...I'm meat-adverse. Logically, I know that's crazy—locally raised, humanely treated animals live good lives until the end.
 
But emotionally, I'm wrecked.
 
We've been eating a lot of veggies over the past few days.
 
More than anything, the raccoon taught me a very valuable lesson:
 
I could never be a farmer of anything but flowers.
 
My heart isn't tough enough.
 
R.I.P. Salt. You were a well-loved chicken. Thank you for your eggs.
 
XO ~
 
Julie, who needs grief counseling over a chicken.

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