Coping With Chicken Loss



Losing animals is an inevitable part of raising them. No matter how careful and diligent you are, at some point you will have to deal with saying goodbye – and not just due to old age, either - to some members of your flock or herd. This is heartbreaking even if your animals were meant to end up as dinner at some point. So much more if you treat your livestock somewhat like pets. I remember one time years ago, crying and telling my husband I’d rather give it all up and never keep anything living but plants again.

We have lost a lot of chickens during the years - to predators, diseases, accidents, and sometimes for no visible reason at all. It's not as devastating as it used to be, but it's never easy. The predominant feeling, I guess, is that of guilt: if a chicken dies, especially because of something that was theoretically preventable, I feel as though I have let my flock down. And, for those who haven’t experienced this, it’s hard to describe the frustration of raising a chicken from an egg to point of lay pullet, and then unexpectedly finding her dead on the coop floor in the morning, just when you were about to begin enjoying her eggs; or carefully tending an incubator full of valuable purebred eggs for nearly three weeks, only to lose the whole hatch due to a lengthy power shutdown.

The losses go up dramatically if you free range and hatch your own chicks. We do both – and oh my, those little balls of fluff are as vulnerable as they are cute. Once in a while there is always an especially sneaky fox, or some thoughtless neighbor irresponsibly lets their dog off the leash. But raising our own chicks is too much fun to stop, and free-ranging means very substantial savings on chicken feed. 

So what do we do about this? My advice as a longtime chicken keeper would be:

1. Bounce back. Resilience is the one quality that draws a line between those who quit poultry keeping after a short time, and those who stick it out. As a matter of fact, this is true for much else in life, too. 

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