Several times a day, particularly since the chickens moved outside, I run through this checklist. I poke my head in the coop and count them. OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix. Check. I account for all their limbs, and make sure their heads are still attached. Then I feed and water them, and call it good. Today it was brought to my attention that this was not sufficient. It was also brought to my attention that our coop was not raccoon-proof.
Only after Mitch checked my checking did we notice an excessive amount of feathers on the outside of the coop, and blood marking the wood at the edge. Dreading what I would find, I started examining each of the chickens individually. Sandy now has a droopy wing, which would explain the black feathers strewn about, but it wasn't until I got a hold of Shirley that I realized why there were so many more blonde feathers. I began gagging upon seeing her partially stripped, fleshy, raw hamburger-y looking chicken neck, and quickly advanced to hysteria.
There is a great amount of guilt that comes with making an animal completely dependent upon you, and then inadvertently exposing it to predators. I know they're not pets, which is why I'm fine with putting her down if she doesn't get better, and I'm certainly not going to spend hundreds of dollars taking her to the emergency vet (I know I've been known to blow money on dog therapy, but that would just be ridiculous). However, we domesticated these animals to serve us, and we have thus thwarted their evolutionary instinct. Chickens were jungle fowl from Asia and South America. They weren't really created to live in a box in a Midwest backyard. They could never live off the land, considering they need to eat ground up oyster shells just so they can produce egg shells. They need us. And it was our responsibility to protect them from raccoons and hawks and whatever else I'm sure we'll encounter. So we spent the rest of the night creating a bomb shelter for the chickens.
For the record, we're treating her. She now owes us five dozen eggs to work off what I spent on betadine solution and cotton balls. Millie is also in debt about three dozen eggs from her eye infection. Considering they only lay about four eggs a week, they better get to work. Nonetheless, I have concluded that chickens are the most badass animals on the planet. Forget Wolverines and Silverback Gorillas. If you had just had half the tendons ripped out of your neck, would you still be milling about the yard eating flowers? I think not.