We've had our chickens for about 5 years now. And for the most part it has been easy. Feed them, give them fresh water, clean their coop now and then, let them out to free-range and forage from time to time. Simple, really. Not much to it. And in exchange they give us fresh, beautiful, brown eggs.
Sadly, last year we lost one of our girls. She got sick and we couldn't figure out why. We tried our hardest to save her...but after almost three weeks it was obvious that she wasn't going to get better. So we made the decision to let her go humanely. It broke my heart, but it was the right thing to do.
Other than that, keeping chickens has been good.
Well, at about 3am Sunday morning I was jerked out of a sound sleep by the sound of something screeching...an animal of some sort screaming almost. I was half asleep so I couldn't discern exactly what it was but I was hopped up out of bed before I had a second chance to think about it. I asked Chris if he heard it and he sleepily replied, "Yes. It's a cat."
But I knew it wasn't a cat. And then I heard it again...this loud screech screech screech screech...over and over again. This time I was just about sure it was the chickens. I put on my robe, slipped on my flip flops and grabbed the flash light. I shone it out the back door to the chicken coop and there I could see my two golden Buff Orpington's, Nellie and Sweetie, cowering in the corner of the chicken run. I knew right away something was terribly wrong.
Number one, the girls go into their cozy coop at night. So for them to be out in the run at 3am was extremely abnormal.
Number two, where was Betty? She wasn't with the others.
I ran back to the bedroom and frantically told Chris, "Honey! It's the chickens!" He hopped out of bed immediately and we ran out to the backyard, me in my robe and him in socks. Chris cautiously peeked inside the coop and there hissed a HUGE possum. (I'm not kidding, he was HUGE.)
We formulated a plan, pretty much looking like The Three Stooges, but in the end it worked. Chris grabbed a rake and got that ugly possum out of the coop and I grabbed the girls one by one and took them to safety in the garage.
Poor things, they were so terrified and so groggy...ya know, chickens go into a trance-like state at night while they sleep. That's why they're so easy to pick off. Fortunately, the possum didn't hurt any of them. It wasn't looking good for Betty, however, as she was still trapped in the coop with him. She's lucky her frantic sister squawked like crazy to call for help, and she's lucky we heard it! Who knows what we could have woken up to? Chances are the possum was just looking for some eggs. But he was big enough to eat a chicken if he felt like it, so it's possible we caught him in time.
At one point, when we first got out to the backyard, we heard rustling in the trees and we thought for sure that whoever the intruder was had made off with Betty. We were SO relieved when we saw that she was still in the coop.
In the middle of all the craziness our phone began to ring. I didn't have time to answer it as I was running back and forth getting the chickens to safety and trying to keep an eye on Chris, making sure he wasn't attacked by a rabid possum. As it turned out it was our neighbor two houses down, "Michelle! Something's attacking your chickens! Wake up! Something is attacking them, bad!" That goes to show you how loud the squawks were.
In the end...all was well. The chickens were snug and safe and at peace in the garage. And Chris and I went back to bed...eventually. I gotta tell ya, that got our blood pumping!