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Saying “Goodbye” to the Beta

May 22, 2010

I have various postings about our journey with our chickens. If you do a search on “chickens” and “chicks”, a list of posts will come up. I am highlighting just a few of them in this post.

We started out with 15 Rhode Island Red chickens…two roosters and 13 hens.  One died early on.

We raised the chicks in a tub in our bathtub. When they got big enough, we put them outside.  They were still kind of funny looking because they did not have all their feathers in. First they went into a small pen. Then the guys built something larger for them.

Once we started to let them out to free range, our neighbors dog killed six of our hens. It really made us angry and sad. So, we kept a close watch on the eight we had left.

They have made it through the winter. Over time, we lost more of them…one at a time…to some marauders. One night we came home and, when Elias went to lock them in the coop, he found an opossum in there with them. They were all safe and the opossum…well…let’s just say it didn’t have any more appetite by the time we got done with it.

At one point, the Beta rooster challenged the Alpha and won…so they switched roles. The Beta got pretty beat up, but he survived. I can relate to that.

As the Beta, he tried to step back up a time or two, but the new Alpha always kept him in his place. It was kind of funny to watch them. The Beta would try to be sneaky with one of the hens and the Alpha would come sailing across the meadow and chase him off. The Alpha would go strutting around…head up and chest out.

We had a pen we used for our Guineas (who also got taken by marauders). So, sometimes Elias would lock them all up together and, sometimes, he would separate the roosters and even put a hen or two in with the Beta. When they were all locked up together, the Beta would sometimes come out with a few less tail feathers, but he survived. He went through so much…and just kept going. Which kind of makes this post even sadder.

We were down to seven…the two roosters and five hens. A huge all black raccoon got one of the hens. Our neighbor saw it in the road when they came home at night. We had left for the day and got back later than planned. By that time, the marauders were out.

So, we were down to six…two roosters and four hens. Elias locked the Beta in the main coop and the rest in the former Guinea cage. Dave and I both woke up to a huge racket going on. So, Dave went down…ready to dispatch the varmint! Sadly, it was not the big black one that we have seen around several times getting into our bins, etc. It was a smaller raccoon. It had actually broken a corner off of the door and gotten in.

Dave shot it. It ran to the back and Dave walked around the outside to see if he could finish it off. As Dave went to the back, it ran out the front. The next morning, the guys followed its trail as far as they could. It made it across the creek and then zigzagged toward the road. It finally crossed the road and went into really thick brush.

The Beta actually survived. I tried to get a photo of him, but he was a bit skittish of me as I am always shooing him off of our pad and out of the laundry room (which has no door). I did manage to get this. It’s a little bit blurry because he wouldn’t stay still for me. He looks pretty OK…but as we found out later…he wasn’t.

At first, we thought he might actually make it. He was still feisty and did not really look all that bad. However, he apparently got some kind of infection. After a day or two, his head started to droop and, at one point, Dave said he looked like he was throwing up…or at least trying to. The poor thing. He had been through so much…and even fought off the raccoon.

We did not want to see him suffer, so Dave put him out of his misery today. That makes me sad. I hate to see a fighting survivor have to go down. I know a lot of people will think that is silly. Hey…it’s just a chicken after all. But, I guess, that I just relate to the idea of keeping on going…no matter what gets thrown at you. The “survivor” part within me relates to the struggle…in whatever corner of life it appears.

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