Taco, Talon, Topo, Tasslehoff

by Lee
(Texas)

On December 14 a wire malfunctioned in my and my fiance’s house. It sparked a fire and burned our beloved house down. Almost everything in it was destroyed by fire, smoke, or water. It was a total loss. My fiancé broke into the house while it was on fire and rescued our three cats and two dogs. One of our cats is still very ill, but they are all still alive so far.

I was a first time chicken person last year. We had seven chickens that we hand raised from baby chicks. Taco, Toothless, Talon, and Topo were our first four. Torpedo, Tampon (she is a grumpy chicken), and Tasslehoff came a month or two later. The seven eventually blended.

We never had any trouble. They all laid perfectly, all the time. We had fencing up, and fencing within fencing. When I smelled a skunk I never slept; I would check on them, fret all night long, run outside if I heard a branch breaking.

They got their feed, their mealworms, their veggies. They ranged inside our widely fenced area during the day, and I tucked them up every night. All I ever had to do was call them and seven little velociraptors would come barreling from all corners of the yard to greet me. When it got colder, I fortified their coops with hay and carefully placed heat lamps.

The fire ruined it all. They survived the fire. They didn’t survive one of our dogs, who had been out with them a thousand times before and never once shown aggression. Even so, she had been locked away in a completely separate kennel.

Somehow she escaped, and she attacked them. She killed my Talon, Topo, and Tasslehoff.

The day after the fire, before this attack happened, I had a moment of feeling overwhelmed by everything we had lost. I sat in the grass of the front yard. Talon, my sweetest chicken, came and snuggled in my lap. She fell fast asleep there, unconcerned by the chaos around her, happy and trusting with me.

Topo was our littlest chicken, a little zany when she was a chick, totally untrusting until one day, suddenly, she loved us.

And Tasslehoff was Tampon’s shadow, never seen apart from her. In one afternoon, my dog killed them all. They were not good deaths.

That was almost two weeks ago.

Today, I returned to our burnt out house to put up the remaining four for the evening. Taco, our biggest hen, our loudest and most motherly, was dead in her coop.

I don’t know why. She never acted sick, she wasn’t attacked (I know what that looks like now). She was curled up in her nesting spot as if she went to take a nap. She had no blood, no vomit, nothing stuck in her throat, no mites or marks. Just dead.

And now just Toothless, my fearless black warrior chicken, is left from my original four. I’m terrified my last three chickens are next. I don’t know if Taco got into something poisoned on the burned premises.

There’s no way anymore to prevent them from access, no other place we can stash them. We have to stay in a rent house across town, we aren’t there to protect them. There’s nothing we can do except wait for the rest of our chickens to die.

And nobody has anything to say when I tell them. I know, I will get somewhat used to this, especially if I ever have more chickens (not convinced of that at the moment). I know it happens. I am just so completely heartbroken on top of heartbroken, and needed to explain it somewhere that it would be understood.

Thank you for listening.

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Thank you
by: Lee

The kindness and warmth of your message has really helped me. Before I had chickens, I never thought I could love them as much as I did (and still do). Thank you very much for your words.

I can also report that our remaining three chickens are still up to mischief and getting treats all the time. Things are improving for all of us!

Sending thoughts in your loss.
by: Cath

Oh my goodness, Lee, what a heartbreaking story. I am so terribly sorry for you and your fiance, and everything you have lost. I cannot even begin to imagine how devastating that must be. I'm not surprised you felt totally overwhelmed. Anyone would, in your circumstances.

You did nothing wrong. Your flock was well cared for and loved. They were fed not just food but treats, and you protected them.

The fact that your dog had been fine before probably means that he was spooked by the fire and acted out of character when he attacked your hens. It happens. All we can do is learn from these things, and you have done that.

In terms of Taco, the fact is that chickens become stressed very easily, but they're very good at hiding it. I'm fairly sure that must be what happened to her. Sudden Chicken Death is a recognised condition and it can be sparked by stress.

You did everything you could for your chickens. If the remaining flock dies, it's because of stress and there's really no remedy for that. You are doing everything you can for them in very difficult circumstances.

You have such a lot to deal with. Be kind to yourself.

I'm sending my thoughts and wishes to you for the future.

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