• The Cost Of Freedom

    by  • June 24, 2014 • City Chickens, Featured, Home & Family • 14 Comments

    Find the cost of freedom,

    I mentioned that we recently switched our chickens from a small yard to a much larger pasture system. We loved giving our girls more space to forage and rotating them to a new area when one was hen pecked. They seemed healthier for having the freedom to roam around.

    Buried in the ground,

    But last Wednesday, we experienced the devastating cost of such independence. A quick and thorough predator slaughtered our entire flock save one hen hidden in the nest box.

    backyard chicken slaughter

    The attack happened just after I let the birds out in the morning, a time I’ve never been worried about predators. The culprit, likely a fox or family of hawks, only took two bodies to presumably eat. When I returned to the yard to feed kitchen scraps, I found fourteen dead or dying bodies scattered like a crime scene.

    Mother Earth will swallow you,

    My heart raced, momentarily unable to believe my eyes. I didn’t know what to do next. No one does in the face of such devastation.

    In the end, with the advice and assistance of many friends, we buried the bodies. Our sweet rooster Shakleton, who by the dispersal of feathers clearly fought the predator, lived another eight hours but ultimately succumbed to unknown internal injuries. We buried him as well.

    Lay your body down.

    As overwhelming as losing the entire flock was, we have always been aware of the possibility of predator attacks. Foxes, raccoons, and hawks all frequent our property. The only way to truly protect chickens would be to confine them completely and that’s not the way we wish to raise livestock.┬áSo we submit to the occasional interruption of natural predator and prey behavior.

    A whole-flock loss, however, especially when the birds weren’t even consumed, cannot happen again. We extended fencing on the run to make it a little harder for predators to climb and rehung buntings to deter hawks. We will add geese to the group because they will alert and possibly fight off small predators. And when we return from summer vacation, we’ll adopt a dog to help guard the livestock. We’re already rebuilding the flock with some chicks raised by our neighbor.

    Grief over losing so many favorite birds, including our last remaining chicken from our very first group of hens, ebbs and flows but is generally abating. What still brings tears to my eyes is the outpouring of support. A half dozen friends showed up to help on the day of the slaughter and many more offered their assistance. Hundreds of friends spoke or wrote words of sympathy via social media, at the farmers market, and at our OEFFA tour. We are humbled by the number of people who encourage us.


    NB. The interspersed lyrics are from the song ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ recorded in 1971 by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Listen to a live 1971 recording re-released last year. I fully realize that writer Stephen Stills was likely expressing a reaction to the tragic losses in the Vietnam War and a few chickens is no comparison to those events. My father’s band sings ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ at the end of each performance. Practicing and performing small gigs since I was young, their rendition of this song has helped ground me through losses my entire adulthood, and the lyrics ran through my head for days last week.

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    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. My favorite color is purple, my favorite vegetable is whatever is fresh and local, and my favorite drink is whatever you're pouring. Follow me @racheltayse


    14 Responses to The Cost Of Freedom

    1. Kelly S
      June 24, 2014 at 11:24 am

      That song immediately popped into my head when I saw the title of this post.
      I’m too young to be an old hippy, but I like some of their music.

      I’m sorry to hear about your chickens :(

    2. June 25, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Wow, that must have ben heartbreaking. How did Lily take it? As a mom, I always wonder if a scenario happened to my family, how I would deal the explanation and with my son’s feelings about the happening.

      • June 26, 2014 at 8:26 am

        Lil is doing pretty well. She witnessed the burial but largely stayed away from the nasty scene. We’ve lost creatures before and are forthcoming with her about the realities of life and death, difficult as they are accept.

    3. June 25, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I just lost a flock of ducks, and 3 goslings that I had driven to Florida to get. I was devastated! The thing that upset me most is that we only found one that had been eaten. The rest were strewn around with broken necks. And my favorite rooster was lost in the battle. But I, like you, feel that free is better. We just continue to make it harder for the predators.

      We live in Mount Gilead, Ohio and I enjoy reading your posts.

      • June 26, 2014 at 8:29 am

        I’m so sorry for your loss too. I would have been ok with losing a bird or two to a hungry predator but to lose them all at once is unnerving.

    4. June 25, 2014 at 10:55 pm

      Oh no! I am so sorry to read this, my heart stopped when I saw you lost the flock. That’s horrible. I’m sure you’ve thought of it, but perhaps you could consider a good watchdog for your birds? We let our flock range with our 3 dogs, a red heeler, heeler/terrier mix and a boxer. They enjoy nothing more than chasing off hawks and coyotes. We did lose a couple of tiny ones to the dogs though, it seems the dogs see them as playmates and got too rough. Otherwise, they are excellent protectors for the chickens and garden both!

      • June 26, 2014 at 8:32 am

        We’re absolutely getting a dog soon. I discovered a few years ago that I’m allergic to some dogs so we have to be a little selective about the type but I think a large dog will definitely help deter predators.

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    7. July 8, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      We lost 10 chickens over 9 days to a raccoon. I eventually trapped and eliminated it, but now we, too, are in the market for a dog to prevent future attacks. We’ve decided on an English Shepherd, which is a good “all around farm dog” type. You should look into that breed as well. We’ll be getting ours next spring sometime.

    8. livy
      September 1, 2014 at 8:11 am

      I am sorry you lost your chickens. There sure are a lot of predators out there. we have a racoon that has claimed 2 of our chickens. When our chickens were free range at our old house, they would be the prey for so many different predators. We got a great pyrenese mix and he seems to be a perfect dog for predator deterence. I was also thinking of getting a motion sensor light for at night. Good luck. Don’t give up!

    9. Gay
      October 3, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      I am truly thankful to the owsner of this web site who has shzred this impressive post
      at at this time.

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