In the previous post, I shared the difficult experience of finding our pregnant alpaca, Prego, dead when she was close to birthing. Unfortunately, Prego was not the only loss on Webb Acres that week.
A couple of days later, after feeding the alpacas, I headed to the chicken tractor, a portable hutch and run where our six hens sleep and lay eggs. Our granddaughter named them all Elsa which is just as well since I still can’t tell most of them apart. I felt increasing dread as I walked closer. I noticed feathers scattered all over the chicken tractor. Opening the door and looking carefully, I realized something horrific occurred overnight. The girls couldn’t get out fast enough and 1, 2, 3… only 5 ran out. Inspecting tractor, I found her in the back corner of the enclosure and saw a long gash down her breast. Recently, we began leaving doors to the hutch open keeping all the Elsas cool at night as the weather warmed. While a part of fencing locked out predators, the sharp claw of a raccoon or cat apparently reached in and slashed our sweet Elsa.
That night, the hens refused to return to home. Jim Bob’s attempts of herding and catching his girls frustrated and confounded him as they scurried away in all directions. I knew the trauma was still too fresh in their little minds.
The next morning only two hens helped the alpacas eat their morning pellets. After work it was clear we had only two hens left. I cleaned out the chicken tractor raking every feather and bit of hay out. Our two remaining girls were reluctant to be carried home. Apparently, Elsa and Elsa got over their anxiety as the next day, they both blessed us with an egg.
While shopping at tractor supply a week later, I saw our soon to be new brood – little yellow and black newborn chicks. I couldn’t resist. I brought home eight, four of each color.
As social worker for hospice, I experience the end of life often. It is sad, sometimes painful to watch, and I’ve shed a tear or two. But when I go home, I leave my job at the gate.
But the sadness of the loss of life is tempered with joy every evening when I return home from work. Our three black labs greeting me at the gate with tails wagging. Our six alpacas strolling towards the gate. Our two hens waddling over to check out what all the excitement is about. And the eight young chicks scurrying away when I walk into the porch fearing that I won’t just look at them but try to pick one up. The sorrow of losing our girls recently are painful lessons Jim Bob and I take to heart. But the vibrant and silly goofballs give me plenty of reason to smile and laugh again.