by Emily Berdugo
(Fort Lauderdale, Florida )
Regina eating with my dog
Regina was a Rhode Island Red that was rescued from a slaughterhouse. My brother is orthodox Jewish and practicing Jewish slaughtering (it’s called "shechita" and it is a more humane way of killing the animals – but I don’t eat chicken anyway so don’t worry). It’s a very holy practice that has to be done by trained professionals and he was teaching a class.
He and I tend to butt heads in general being that I’m an avid animal lover and he doesn’t understand the concept of having pets. Regardless, my brother ordered a bunch of chickens, Guinea fowl, and quail from a slaughterhouse and brought them to my house to do it. My mom and I were away otherwise we would’ve absolutely said no!!!
Anyway, after my brother's class, there were 3 remaining Rhode Island Red chickens, one Guinea fowl, and one bantam whose lives were spared. My mom and I being the people we are, forbade my brother from touching them the next week (that was his original plan) and so they became our pets.
We already have an acre of land with 3 ponds and 12 ducks (more or less) and when we bought the property it literally came with a chicken run, so it didn’t seem like a lot to take on.
Within the first month, 2 of the chickens died in the middle of the night with their bodies both fully intact. Not sure what got them. We had one chicken, the bantam, and Guinea fowl left. The Guinea fowl and bantam ended up dying 8 or 9 months into us having them, which was beyond traumatic for my whole family and I (even the brother who initially wanted to serve them for dinner). But we prioritized the animals we still had left of course, after mourning their losses. We never found the bantam or the Guinea fowl’s bodies.
With our one chicken left, I named her Regina. I don’t know why but I just felt it. She began becoming attached to us, my cats, and my dogs. We noticed she was surviving every night by flying into one of our palm trees and sleeping there. It soon became a nightly ritual with family and friends to wish Regina a good night and make sure she was up there in her tree.
She would spend the entire day with the ducks or cats roaming around the property. I felt like she was confused as to what kind of animal she was and lonely. I had wanted a Silkie chick desperately since I first found out about them when I was 16.
I never in a million years imagined myself ever being able to own chickens but I always loved the idea of having one. I always thought of chickens as the “underdog” and I liked the way they were so quirky and funny looking. I didn’t even know the first thing about them. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and get 5 silkie chicks.
I bought a coop, set it up in my chicken run and kept the chickens all in there. Regina was allowed to be free range because she had always been from the day we got her, but the babies stayed in the coop until I felt they were big enough to move to the run.
I learned the hard way that my Silkies were never ready to free range by losing my favorite of all of the Silkies first, in broad daylight. I was so distraught and felt that since he was the leader of the babies, I needed to get more.
So I did just that. I got 4 more chicks. All of my baby chicks were getting along so well. Regina, on the other hand, was quite indifferent. For whatever reason she didn’t really care for them. They were all (including Regina) in the run and I had cloth and chicken wire around my run so I let them all roam in it.
Regina was inside of the nesting box. The other babies were all around the run. In the middle of the day a raccoon came and massacred all of them. Regina and 3 of the newer babies were the only survivors because they were inside of the coop (even though the door was open to the coop inside of the run).
At this point we hadn't known how it happened and thought surely it couldn’t have been a raccoon, because there was no way the raccoon could’ve gotten in there. The door to the run had been locked shut so we knew there had to be some way they got in, but couldn’t figure it out.
I just concluded it was because my dad or niece didn’t close the door properly, even though they all said they did. Later on in the day, the raccoon went back for more and ate one more Silkie. My mom caught it in the act.
We ended up giving away the last two babies to a sanctuary and kept only Regina, because we assumed that since she was totally okay and untouched, raccoons only went for the babies. Plus Regina bossed our dogs and cats around so we didn’t think a raccoon would even get a shot at her.
She was a survivor and continued to survive despite so many odds. Yesterday, while she was taking a dust bath, I presume, she was murdered by a raccoon, almost a year to date from my chicks being killed last year.
I can’t get over it. I’m beside myself. I’m depressed. I feel like God is punishing me for something and that’s why this happened. I just miss her so much.
She was so special and so cute. She changed my life and opened me up to the beauty of chickens and chicken keeping.
I am forever grateful to have gotten to spend two years with her. I always knew I was on borrowed time, but didn’t think this would happen so soon.
I love my Reggie chicken girl forever. We are burying her body in my backyard and I got her a headstone.
RIP Regina Reggiotto.
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