Actually, to be more precise, she was killed. I was out feeding the animals tonight when I heard a ruckus in the corner of the chicken run.
Rushing over, I discovered a group of my chickens viciously attacking one of their own. Our rooster, Spot, even hurried over to join in.
I was able to get the mob off of her, but it was too late. My poor girl was nearly lifeless, her head bloodied to a near pulp.
I quickly picked her up, her body twitching. I knew instantly that I was holding a creature in its last moments of life.
I moved as gently as I could, murmuring, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” It really wasn’t okay, but I so wanted this chicken’s last moments to be peaceful.
I sat down on a log with her on my lap, her body twitching once, twice…then a final third time. Then, nothing.
One might think it silly that I sat there for about 10 minutes, holding her and saying,
Then, I got up and quietly placed her on the log, and I finished my farm chores.
I don’t know what happened, what made my chickens attack one of their own sisters. Chickens don’t suffer weakness or illness in a member of their flock, so it’s possible there was something wrong with her. I just don’t know.
Farm life is sometimes like that. Even on a tiny little urban farm like ours. Usually, everyone’s fine, and everything is normal, even fun. But every now and then, something difficult happens, and you just have to handle it.
Urban farming isn’t simply a fun, cuter version of the real thing. You are still responsible for these lives; our goats, chickens, ducks, and pigs trust us for everything.
When an animal dies, my heart feels heavy. My husband, Brett, feels the same heaviness.
I suppose you could say it was “just a chicken.” And you’d kind of be right. Chickens don’t recognize us as friends, they don’t know their names, and their brains are pretty prehistoric.
But it was a life.
If we’d gotten into urban farming for the sheer trendy fun of it, we certainly wouldn’t still be doing it seven years later. It’s a lot of work, costs a lot of money, and is a great deal of responsibility. When you make a mistake, one of your animals could pay with its life.
Urban farming is hard. It’s messy. It’s fun. It can break your heart, fill you with joy. I’m grateful for every animal that has been entrusted to us.
So, it’s not “just a chicken.” It’s never just a chicken. It’s a creature that is one of many that has made our little acre come to life, with all the hard, messy, fun, heartbreaking, and joyful things that come along with it.