Yes. All Your Chickens are Gonna Die

My 2 youngest children attend a little, cottage school 2 days a week.  I was there volunteering the other day with some other sweet mommies.  One of the girls was talking about her recent “jump” to the country and all the projects they had going on their homestead.  This is when the subject of keeping chickens came up.

“We haven’t got any chickens yet,” she said.  “We want to put up really good fencing that is predator proof. I don’t want to get chickens until I am sure they will be safe. I do not want any of my chickens to die.”

Can we all just pause a moment and laugh?

BAHAHAHAHAHA!

If you have kept chickens for any amount of time, you know that they die.  It’s not that we are bad chicken keepers.  It’s not that we are irresponsible.  It’s not that we don’t give our chickens the love, safety and protection they deserve.

If your chickens die it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

You are not a bad chicken keeper.

The truth is:  If you have chickens you are going to lose chickens.  Chickens are suicidal.

chickens gonna die

They are all going to die.

Sorry.

I’m not trying to be the Grim Reaper.

I just want to set realistic expectations.

All your chickens are going to die.

If you have perfect fencing. If you have the perfect coop. If you have the perfect brooder. Your chickens are probably still going to manage to find a way to die.

Side Note:  If you are one of the 2 people on the planet who have managed to keep chickens for a length of time and have never lost one; you are a miracle.  You defy the laws of physics.  It’s true.  I’ve heard it can be done, however, have not experienced it.  Most books, articles, and long-time chicken keepers will tell you that chickens die.  It is common to lose chickens.

When people learn how we keep our chickens free-range, their first reaction is,

“How do you keep them from being eaten by the local wildlife?”

The truth is, that the local wildlife is not their greatest enemy. They have many enemies, including themselves.

I have some dear homesteading friends who keep their chickens fenced in and their chicken mortality rate isn’t any better than mine.  It seems that whether you keep yours free or locked up – you’re still gonna lose chickens.  It’s all part of the experience, Clark.  Name that movie.  🙂

Don’t believe me?

dead chick

Here are some of the ways chickens around our place have “blown the contract”, “kicked the bucket,” “ceased to exist.” “ended their earthly career,” or “fallen off their perch” so to speak…

#1  Human Feet

Yes, my son and I have both stepped on  a baby chicken.  It’s horrifying.  It’s upsetting.  Especially if you don’t kill them immediately and they are hopping around with a broken neck.  Please,  Calgon take me away.  I can’t handle half-dead baby chickens.  I don’t deserve to have chickens.  I should be fired.  I am a chicken murderer.

#2 Drowning in their water (or someone else’s)

In case you were wondering, no, chickens can’t swim.  They sink.

Just last week my daughter went up to the cow field to fill the stock tanks.  When she arrived she found a chicken, dead, floating, in the cow’s water.

What?  How?  Why?  Someone give me understanding.  The chickens drink from waterers.  The chickens drink from our creek.  The chickens drink from our duck-pond.  Our chickens have been drinking out of water tanks for 7 years.  How this chicken managed to fall in and die is beyond me.

It’s a chicken superpower – dying.

#3 Laying an Egg

Go figure.

#4  Spontaneous Unexplained Death

As noted we do not have an explanation to this type of death.  It just kind of happens.

This is especially true if you purchased baby chicks from an unnamed Feed Store that sold a few hundred chicks that had been “lost in the mail” for 4 days.

Let that sink in.

Yup.  I bought 20 baby chicks.  Within 3 days over half of them were dead.  We gave them the best chick starter.  We taught them how to drink from their new drinker.  We loved them and called them, “George.”  And they were dropping like flies.

When I called the unnamed Feed Store to let them know that they sold me defective chickens, who were all now dead, I was met with the most disturbing comment.  I don’t know if she was new.  I don’t know if she was thinking.  I don’t know if she still works there, but here’s what she said,

Feed Store Girl:  “Oh.  You must have bought some of the chicks that got lost in the mail for 4 days.”

Me:  “Ummmmmm?”

{Confusion and dismay setting in…..}

Me:  “You had a batch of chicks get lost in the mail for 4 days and when they showed up you guys sold them.”

Feed Store Girl:  “Yeah.  A lot of them are dying.  Just come by and we’ll give you replacements for free.”

Me:  Thinking….. still processing….. Uhhhhhhh

News Flash:

  1. I have 4 chicken loving children
  2. They especially love baby chickens
  3. My baby-chicken-loving children don’t take it too well when their baby chicks drop dead for no reason
  4. By “don’t take it too well” I mean they cry, have funerals and are sad for a week
  5. Going out to “check on” the new baby chicks had a completely new meaning…  It was more like watching Nightmare on Elm Street.  Who’s dead today?
  6. Who wants to deal with my 4 very sad children that are having funerals and nightmares because the new baby chicks are turning into corpses by the minute.
  7. The only good part (sarcasm) is that, I suppose, the whole experience kind of numbed everyone to the trauma of baby chickens dropping dead.  When we have a baby chick die, it’s not such a big deal anymore.

#5 Local Dogs

This has happened a few times and it isn’t fun for the chicken or the dog, or us for that matter.

#6 Wildlife (Coyotes, opossums, raccoons, etc)

Trust me, no matter how hard you try, you will never kill all the racoons.

#7 Infectious Bronchitis

This, my friends, is a horror show.

Moral of the story:

  • Don’t buy chickens from the county fair.
  • Don’t buy chickens from a farm down the street.
  • Don’t buy chickens from the person who has half of her birds in a “sick pen.”

If you bring home a chicken who has EVER been exposed to Infectious Bronchitis it (the chicken) will ALWAYS be a carrier and infect every chicken it meets forever.  Amen.

What this means is that you will have NO IDEA the chicken has been in contact with Infectious Bronchitis.  It will be healthy, it will be happy, it will be a scratching, pecking, egg laying normal chicken.  If it has ever had Infectious Bronchitis (and recovered) It is not!

It is the Grim Chicken Reaper and has come to kill anything on your farm with feathers.  A chicken can be exposed to Infectious Bronchitis and live.  It can recover.  It can be a healthy chicken again – BUT it will contaminate and probably kill every other chicken it meets.

You do not want any chicken who has ever met Infectious Bronchitis within 20 miles of your flock or you will no longer have a flock.  Well,  I suppose you could get a new flock…… after

  1. All your chickens die
  2. All you meat chickens die
  3. All your children bawl their eyes out for a week because all their favorite pet chickens are dead
  4. All your coops are cleaned, disinfected, scrubbed, bleached and torched
  5. You buy a new flock of chicks (that did not come from the county fair, another farm or from the woman with the “sick pen”).

#8 Blindness

We do not know how this happened but, yes, we have had a chicken go blind and had to cull it.

#9 Stew Pot

Who would eat a chicken?  Us.

#10 Death by Heat Lamp

Yes, we have cooked a baby chicken to death under a heat lamp.  Oops.  Just so you know, he was already pretty sickly.

#11 Old Age

In case you are wondering, we have never had a chicken die from old age.

 

Yup, they are all going to die.  One way or another.

And that’s OK!

Don’t let this stop you from keeping chickens.

They are a blast.  They are easy.  They are entertaining.  They will give you eggs, manure and meat.

Just know going in, that it is a matter of time before you find a dead chicken floating in the stock tank.  Don’t let it ruin your day.

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XO,

Candi

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