We recently sold our flock of laying hens. It wasn’t an easy choice but a decision made with our heads instead of our hearts. We are currently working on getting our Raw Milk License. To those of you who have no idea what this entails…It means I have to jump through many hoops while filling out all the red tape and paying money to every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the government that comes knocking on my door (sorry for the sarcasm). Part of fulfilling the requirements backed us into a corner on a couple of things here at the farm.
To keep the chickens meant they would have to be locked up. I personally like free range chickens. They keep the bugs down and fresh free range eggs are the best!!! Just ask all my egg purchasing customers. We had over 50 laying hens which gave us about 5 dozen eggs a day…I sold out every day! But with the cost of feed rising and having to lock them up, it just wasn’t worth it financially to keep them. I miss them though. There was something very surreal in watching a large flock spread out over the farm pecking for food, cackling and crowing away.
When we first moved here, Vince decided we needed chickens. Remember that he grew up with chickens and all I knew about chickens was purchasing eggs at the grocery store. We bought the peeps and I fretted over them. Is the heat lamp right? Are they getting enough water? When should I let them out? What if they forget how to come back home? Etc., Etc., Etc. I drove my husband crazy. I actually managed to raise them to laying status without killing any and I was so proud! Yes, I am pathetic 🙂
Two years ago during the Rally Races here in Wellsboro, I was working at 911. We were fairly busy with many dispatches. The Rally races are fun but they keep us busy dispatching ambulances for all the Tom Petty want-a-be’s who get to racing on the dirt roads. So here I am at work, busy…I am dispatching ambulances, the phone is ringing off the hook…I am actually breaking a sweat sitting down….when my co-worker announces that my daughter is on hold for me and she is crying.
Now I know something is wrong because being a 911 dispatcher since practically the day they were born, they know better than to call me at work unless it is really important. I pick up the phone with dread….what could be wrong?
Katie is on the other end crying hysterically. Between her sobs and gasps for breath while I am listening to my radio traffic at work, (police officers chasing our one of many tourists who thought they could drive just like Dale Sr. after watching one little Rally race…idiots!) I can’t understand a word. Vince gets on the phone now too…this is the story I get.
Vince and Mikey are in the barn feeding, watering, and milking the goats. Katie is on the back porch putting her barn shoes on. She notices that the chickens are cackling extra loud, the roosters are having a fit, and several chickens are jumping in the window. She heads to the coop and goes in. She is thinking to herself that the chickens are acting more stupid than usual. She hears a hissing sound and looks down. Here is a raccoon right at her feet eating one of our chickens and hissing at her. She screams a blood curdling scream and is frozen in place.
Vince and Mikey hear screaming. Vince has that fatherly instinct that something is seriously wrong. Katie is still screaming and not answering him. He takes off at full sprint for the chicken coop (my husband doesn’t jog let alone sprint anywhere). Mikey is right behind him. He gets to the coop and sees Katie who is now crying and screaming at the same time. He then notices the raccoon. Thinks to himself that it must be rabid since it is broad daylight and it decided to have a mid afternoon snack out of our chickens.
He turns to Mikey…go get my gun. Mikey who is now ecstatic that we finally get to shoot something, runs to the house. Vince grabs Katie and throws her out of the coop. Mikey comes out of the house with guns a blazing, locked and loaded.
Vince takes aim. BANG!!! the gun goes off. Raccoon is still hissing and is now charging my husband. BANG!! BANG!! Vince hits the rabid raccoon two more times. Mikey is jumping up and down hollering “SHOOT IT SHOOT IT!!!” Katie is crying hysterically. The raccoon is seriously pissed at him now and still charging. BANG!!! The fourth time it is hit it goes down.
Mikey is beaming with pride…”YOU GOT HIM DAD, YOU GOT HIM”!!! Katie is still crying, Vince is trying to count 50 hens running all over 7 acres to figure out how many the &*$% raccoon ate.
And to think that I missed it all since I was at work.
So the hens are all gone now. The older ones are in my freezer awaiting the days that I decide to make chicken & dumplings or chicken corn soup. The younger ones I sold to my fellow animal lover and friend Bambi. The phone is still ringing from all my egg customers that are looking for fresh free range eggs. There won’t be anymore rabid raccoons to worry about, chicken manure EVERYWHERE, or yummy fresh eggs to eat. Thus is my chicken story and the end to my poultry raising career.