So, a few weeks ago the idyllic, "Disneylike" world that had surrounded raising chickens at the Baird's house came crashing down. When you acquire animals you know this time will come you just hope that it won't come to you. All the bad things that the chicken reading material said could happen when you have chickens had not yet happened to us. And anytime I had a concern the husband quickly assured me "it will never happen" ...yeah, right :) I had read oh so much about the chicken raising process before we got them and I very carefully made sure that they:
Had enough room so they did not get bored and peck each other.
That they had time every day outside of the coop in the garden and in the yard.
A super clean coop and fresh water twice a day.
I begged the hubby to make sure the coop was predator proof.
I was a dang good chicken mom. Then that ill fated Tuesday came and twelve year old Tatiana had the unfortunate privilege of discovering a hawk attacking Grace, Natalie's chicken. When I got to the scene of the crime Tatiana was sobbing and Grace was just laying there motionless in the dirt, we immediately assumed she was dead and we focused on catching the other chickens and quickly putting them back in their coop as the hawk continued to circle menacingly overhead. As I headed back to grab the last chicken all of a sudden there was Grace in an upright position... very alive. She ended up with two very yucky deep wounds in her neck, a ton of missing feathers, and an eye that she did not open until about a week later. We kept her away from the other chickens for two days so her wounds could heal because I had read that the others would attack her if they sensed her weakness. On the day when Natalie and I tried to re-introduce Grace to the other chickens that she had been with since they all hatched together in May they immediately flew at her and attacked her. I was sick. I called my sister Rebecca who is my chicken resource due to her having a gazillion chickens of her own. She said she had never separated her hurt chickens from the others. You either made it or you didn't on the Hirschi Farm in Michigan. I could not believe what I was hearing :) Don't chickens have emotions just like me? Isn't that poor chicken feeling horrible? Why do they have to have a social order? I have seen Chicken Run I know the truth! Then she rocked my world even more by telling me horses are mean to each other too. WHAT? Has watching 101 Dalmations, Lady and the Tramp, Fox and the Hound that have animals that talk and feel in them ruined my world that much?
In the end I knew Aunt Rebecca was right so I gathered all my abilities to ignore injustice and threw the chicken that had been brutally attacked back in with her "friends" and ran. It just did not seem right that they were mean to her. No amount of talking could convince them to be nice. Chickens have their rules that they mindlessly obey. The more I thought about it the more I realized that social order is always being established everywhere...at church...at school....in life. We don't really peck at each other but yet we do really peck at each other.
After about three days things were back to normal. Grace is definitely at the bottom of the pecking order. She knows her place and she stays there. The others now allow her around and she can eat what is left when they are done. I have to tell myself over and over in my head "they do not have human emotions she does not even care" and sometimes it seems to work :)
It has been many weeks now and Grace is still at the bottom of the pecking order and occasionally I will see another chicken remind her where she belongs. The other chickens do not even care that she was attacked by a hawk. I feel like I am watching a live National Geographic special every time I watch these chickens. I can hear the narrators voice calmly and exactingly describing why they have to do what they have to do. I can hear that same narrators voice calmly describing recess, church, meetings, dances ....need I say more? :)