I buried our oldest chicken, Nugget, yesterday morning. Not the most fun thing to do before even having my first cup of coffee, but it had to be done. I went out to open up the chicken coop and let the chickens out; normally I lift Nugget off of the roost and on to the ground, since she’d gotten pretty rickety over the last year or so, and had a hard time with that hop, but when I turned around after opening up the coop door she wasn’t sitting there on her roost. I looked around for her, thinking she must’ve hopped down on her own, but no Nugget. I took a look in the nesting boxes (she hasn’t laid an egg since last summer, but I thought it was worth a look) and indeed, there she was – but dead. Poor girl. When I went in to tell my husband that she was dead, he said that she’d been in the nest box instead of on the roost last night when he closed up the coop, so she must’ve known her time was coming. At least she died peacefully and in her sleep.
We got Nugget as a chick in 2008, I think, in our very first batch of chicks. We got three chicks to start, raised them in a cardboard box brooder in the house for the first several weeks, and then moved them outside to (what we thought, in our early days of chicken-keeping, was) a predator-proof coop. Well, some juvenile skunks apparently didn’t get the memo that the coop was predator-proof; they were apparently small enough to slip through the 2×4 wire, and did so one night. It was a hot summer night and we hadn’t closed the chickens up into their small henhouse within the coop, thinking they were safe and sound. In the middle of the night, however, chicken screams roused us from our sleep, and we ran out, chasing the skunks away. They’d killed two of the three young hens; Nugget survived.
The next day, we went to the farm we’d gotten our chicks from, to see if we could buy a couple more to keep Nugget company. Though they’d been the ones who told us that 2×4 wire was small enough to keep out predators, they guilt-tripped us about not keeping our chickens safe. Grr. But they did sell us two more chickens around Nugget’s age, and we took them home. That evening, we locked the hens up in the henhouse so that this time they’d be completely safe, but were again awakened by chicken screams in the middle of the night. Skunks had gotten into the coop again, and had actually dug a tunnel into the henhouse, which was lined with wire on the bottom but otherwise sat on the dirt. Again, what we thought was critter-proof was not, and the skunks killed one of our two new chickens. They also pierced Nugget’s skull (by biting it, I’m assuming?), but were interrupted before they could finish the job, and she survived.
Of course, after that second attack we rebuilt the small henhouse to include a wooden floor, which finally was enough to keep out those horrible skunks. Nugget had survived two skunk attacks, one with a bloody skull, and we grew quite attached to her over the next several years. She laid beautiful green eggs, and though she wasn’t the most prolific layer after the first three years, we were much too fond of her to put her in the soup pot, and she became a much-loved pet. She was a good chicken.