The chicks were growing fast and looking more and more like chickens than babies. We had moved them from the garage into the coop in the barn. We would let them out of the coop now to explore the barn and also out back a bit into the corral.
A fence made a small enclosure in the great outdoors. Not very big, but allowing enough space to get some sun and greens until they got a bit bigger and could venture out on their own. Our youngest daughter, Molly, would often bring a chair into the barn and read while the chickens pecked about. Her favorite was Rooster Dude, a little guy just beginning to show his roosterly decor. We ran some 2 foot high chicken wire across the front door of the barn, so that if the door was open, they couldn’t escape.
One day, Dave was working in the area in front of the barn. He left the barn door open so more sun could enter the dark interior. I called him in for supper.
After supper, he returned outside to his work. A few minutes later he came back in cradling a chicken with a strained look on his face. “Amy, a dog got the chickens.”
“What?” I tried to comprehend what he was telling me. I looked again at the chicken he was holding. It was wounded. “Just this one?” I asked.
A moan escaped from me. I felt punched in the stomach. We had worked so hard to raise them from chicks and now this? I started crying. That made Molly start to cry. We left her in the house with older brother, Caleb, and took oldest Josh with us.
“Are you sure you want to see this?” questioned Dave. I braced myself and nodded. I entered the barn to bodies strewn everywhere. Some out in the enclosure, some in the middle of the barn, some in the coop. Not eaten, just slaughtered. As we gathered the dead, we found 5 chickens cowering in the corner of the coop between the wall and a beam. The dog had missed them. I tried to comfort them, but they were in a state of shock. We laid out the bodies and did a count. It seemed all our favorites were among the dead, including Rooster Dude. But some were still missing. We went outside and started calling. The sunlight was fading fast, and chickens hunker down and stop moving in the dark. We called and called, but none came. They had never been outside the barn door, so would not be familiar with how to get back in the dusky light. So much tall grass to hide and get lost in. If they were in shock like the others, it was no wonder they didn’t come. It was still cold at night this time of year, with many predators that would love a tender young chicken.