We started out with four chickens last year, and a few months later two of the four had flown the coop – literally. The remaining two were friendly but slow of foot, which meant they were less likely to leave but easy prey for any neighborhood critter.
Last night, one of those critters entered our backyard and forced its way into the chicken coop. I’m just glad my boys weren’t by my side when I found what remained of our dear pets.
My wife and I decided to tell our boys what happened rather than concoct a story about the chickens running away to join a cooler family. They know snippets of the whole “circle of life” routine already.
Young Ben cried a little when I told him the news, then his mind raced to something else – earthworms. Elijah was another case. I told him after picking him up from pre-pre-school, and he got a confused look on his face. He immediately wanted to tell a classmate what had happened, but I distracted him long enough to stop it. It felt wrong for the chickens’ death to instantly become a gory tale to tell his friends.
Later, while driving home from school, our dear, departed chickens came up in conversation and one of us began to cry. Hint: he has a daddy blog.
Part of me wanted to be stoic, to show my son that things would be OK. I couldn’t do it. So I blubbered a bit and suddenly Elijah was crying, too. He couldn’t quite process what had happened. He kept asking if they would be gone tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that.
I brought up our old death stand by – they’re in the rainbows now along with Pop-Pop. But my heart wasn’t in it.
Suddenly our backyard is quieter, almost eerily so. The occasional cluck-cluck-cluuuuuck sound had become a comfort, the sight of the two chickens ambling along in search of food gave me a tiny burst of joy I didn’t expect. Worst of all, I fear I could have prevented all of this. I should have secure the coop door better or woke up when the chickens were first attacked. I slept right through their final moments, apparently.
Their deaths bring something else unpleasant to mind. The novelty of having chickens had worn off with the boys. My wife, who came up with the whole, “let’s get some chickens and eat fresh eggs” idea, was flustered by the amount of poop they produced on a daily basis. I get it. They poop. A lot.
I was against getting chickens in the first place, and now I’m both the guy reduced to tears by their absence and the one who could have prevented their deaths in the first place.