Long time readers of this blog have heard me say it before: I don’t want this blog to be a sad place. It’s probably one reason I’ve chosen not to write much about animal welfare issues. Our new tagline does say, after all, “Barking About….Love, Health, and Our Purr-suit of Happiness.”
Sometimes the road to happiness is a very rough one. I’ve been having a difficult time pulling myself out of the sadness of losing our beagle Cricket. Many of my recent posts have been about how we’re trying to adjust to life without her. That’s OK….I know fellow pet lovers understand that, especially since many have left comments here saying just that.
It just doesn’t help when it feels like our hits in life just keep on coming. One way we’ve been pursuing happiness has been starting our little farm; which we did not long after losing our golden retriever Sheba. New and happy things can help with healing. However, things also don’t always go as planned, and we’ve hit another bumpy patch on that road to happiness as well.
When I put up my post last Friday of farm photos, some of what I’m going to tell you about had already happened, though the full story hadn’t played out yet. I wasn’t ready to write about it anyway, but I thought of something I had read or heard somewhere recently that resonated with me. Someone was talking about how social media leads to sadness in many people. Everyone puts their best foot forward out there, and many only post happy news and the high points of their lives….making those whose lives may not be going well feel even more alone. I’ve experienced that feeling myself.
My idyllic photos of a happy life on the farm last week were not the whole story. I feel like it’s important that we share the bad as well as the good here, and I try to be honest about those things, even if it takes me some time to be ready to sit down and write that truth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I feel obligated to share every detail of our lives, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m looking for sympathy either. It’s cathartic for me to write these stories, and that’s what blogs are supposed to be about (at least to my mind) – chronicling our lives, good and bad, while sharing things that can help others.
Sad News from the Farm
We lost two of our chickens this past week; and one of our Rhode Island Reds is injured; all by a fox. I was gone to meet with my bookkeeping client one evening, and the Dadz was with Luke having a nap on the couch after a long day at work. A commotion woke him, he saw the fox and scared it away, and it dropped the chicken it had at the time. Unfortunately, it seems it may have visited twice, and took one away before my hubby was awoken. It had happened right before I got home, there were feathers everywhere, and one hen was missing.
We know it’s a risk free-ranging our birds. It’s a similar dilemma to what we faced with Cricket. Should we not let her play ball at all, because it’s straining her heart and is risky? Or should we let her live her life still being able to do the one thing she loved more than anything?
Our birds are happy when they’re outside; when I open the coop in the morning, they can’t wait to get out. I see them wandering the yard, pecking at everything, taking dust baths, lying in the sun….enjoying life. It’s such a joy to watch them. When we had to put them in the coop early that night after the attack, they were squawking and carrying on, they were not happy!
We thought we could manage things, after all, we had seen foxes before and successfully deterred them from coming back. We tried putting the birds inside earlier in the evening when we could. That night, we got everyone in the coop except one guinea hen. We did get her to the garage where she stayed until it was almost dark. The darkness makes it easier to capture them – not that it was easy, mind you! But the Dadz finally got a hold of her and we took her to the coop. They stayed inside in the mornings when I was busy, and then Luke and I patrolled the perimeter of the yard before we let them out.
We made our presence known in the evenings by spending much more time outside. We did see the fox again the next day, but the guineas alerted us, and I was able to chase it away. But just three days later I had patrolled the yard, then went inside to feed Sam and Luke. I was just getting ready to go back outside again when we heard a commotion. The guineas were carrying on, some of the hens were huddled together in another area, and one was missing. We got everyone put inside and I went looking for her. I found her body in the woods.
We thought it odd, since our research had turned up the fact that this fox was probably feeding her young. As it turned out, we later found out she had probably left that one to come back and get later, while she circled around to go for more. Thank goodness we had stayed outside with them before getting them inside the coop.
We are facing the fact now that we can’t let them free range, not unless we’re outside with them every minute, and at least not until after spring when the wildlife is feeding their young. The Dadz needs to build a secure run so we can let them get outdoors at least some. But right now, we have been faced with two days of freezing rain, sleet, and snow, so the poor birds have been confined to the coop, and it’s been impossible to work outside. It will only be temporary and it’s just as well they haven’t been outside in the nasty weather anyway. Yesterday was extremely windy, ice was falling off our roof in sheets, and branches from trees were falling down everywhere (many in our area lost power, but we didn’t).
Luckily our injured chicken Mama Red is holding her own and seems to be healing well. We will keep treating her wound and hope that continues. I know this is all part of farm life; most people who keep poultry will tell you of losses to predators or disease. One friend of ours had commented when ours were young that she couldn’t believe we hadn’t lost any chicks when we were raising them; many people do.
Those two chickens we lost didn’t have their own names. I can’t tell all the birds apart, so I call each one “Mama” and then their breed (there were 4 of each breed). Mama (Rhode Island) Red, Mama Buff (Orpington), and Mama G (Golden Comet). It was Mama Buff and Mama G that we lost, and their lack of individual names doesn’t make us any less sad about it. Each bird is an integral part of the flock, and I feel awful for letting them down and not keeping them safe.
I’m so ready for this black cloud that seems to be over us lately to go away (literally too….it’s supposed to rain here all week). I try to focus on the positives in our lives; some days I succeed, others I don’t. In one of my recent posts about life without Cricket, our friend Jodi at Heart Like a Dog commented with some sage advice: “Hang onto the love when it gets hard.” That’s what we’re also writing about here: love. There’s no denying it, love can hurt, but in the end it’s what keeps us going too. As far as the happiness? It’s there too, sometimes it just gets lost a bit and it takes work and time to find our way back to it.