This post is belated because we were without a computer for a while and have just remedied that situation. It's actually a few posts combined into one, so get comfy.
One evening several weeks ago, we had just said good-bye to Emily and her kids and were getting all of our kids rounded up and into the house to begin preparing for bed. I walked down by the pond to set a sprinkler when I heard Adam scream. Those of you who are parents know that your children have different screams. This was not the scream of a toddler who was mad because someone had stolen his favorite toy; this was the scream of a toddler who believed that his own death was imminent.
I started running back up to the house, calling his name the whole time. As I got nearer, I could hear that he was screaming "Daddy! Help!" over and over. I couldn't imagine what had happened but all my mommy senses were on high alert.
I rounded the corner of the house to find Adam trapped in the yard cart by our rooster, Foghorn. For some reason, Foghorn had decided several weeks previously that he didn't like Adam. He was friendly enough to the rest of the family but I had seen him chase Adam several times before. Morgan and I tried to always make sure that Adam was never alone with Foghorn, which was easy enough because Adam couldn't open the gate to the coop and Foghorn rarely flew out of the coop, not to mention that we don't make a habit of leaving Adam outside alone.
The rooster was in the only opening of the high-walled cart with his wings spread wide Karate Kid-style and he was jumping in the air and slashing at Adam with his claws. Adam was huddled in the back of the cart, with literally no escape. As soon as he saw me, he reached his arms out and jumped from the cart. As I caught him, he wrapped both his legs and arms around my neck and began heaving great sobs of relief. I tried to pull him away from me to check for injuries, but he held fast. I considered wringing Foghorn's neck then and there or at least punting him across the yard, but he had taken off as soon as he saw me round the corner of the house.
I ran in the house, calling for Morgan. I found him in the bathroom, where he was, uh, occupied and told him what had happened. I didn't realize that Adam could say Foghorn's name, but as I related the events to Morgan, Adam clung even tighter to me and cried "Coghorn, no! Coghorn, no!"
Mike, who was just stepping out of the shower, heard the whole thing. His eyes grew wide and he said "Does that mean we have to kill Foghorn?"
Morgan nodded and said "I'm going to do it tonight."
Michael began to cry and ran out of the room.
Adam finally loosened his grip enough that I could look at him. He had two slashes on his neck, one below each ear. They weren't deep enough to even be bleeding, really. I was surprised that he didn't have greater injuries, given the amount of time the rooster had him cornered.
Adrenaline was still pumping through my body and I was unable to hold still. I decided to go outside and put the ducks into the coop for the night. I had noticed them in the yard when I was carrying Adam into the house. I tried to leave Adam with Morgan, but he cried and reached for me. I figured that a distraction would be good for him, too, so I asked him if he wanted to help me catch the ducks. Foghorn's attitude toward Adam was infuriating in part because Adam loved all of our birds so much. He would sit by the wading pool in the laundry room for hours and play with them when they were still just chicks. When we finished the coop and put them outside, he loved to feed them. I was so glad to see that he had no fear of the birds. Fear of animals is something that is hard to overcome and with as many pets as we have, I want all of my children to be responsible around animals but not afraid. Adam was officially now terrified of at least one of our birds, and it probably wouldn't take much for him to fear the others.
As soon as we walked out the door, Foghorn caught sight of Adam and puffed up his chest and let out a crow. Adam clung again to me, screaming "No, Coghorn!" and didn't calm down until I set him safely on top of the dog house. Just as I was herding the ducks into the coop, Mike and Noel came out of the door, both crying.
"Is Dad really going to kill Foghorn?" "I don't want him to kill Foghorn!" "How is he going to do it?" "Foghorn is my pet!"
I tried to calm Mike and Noel by repeating what the chicken had done to their brother. I explained that it was likely to happen again and that we couldn't have an animal around that would attack someone. I asked them if they loved the chicken more than they loved their brother, to which they tearfully responded "no".
Just as everyone started to breathe normally again, the door opened and out came Morgan. Fire blazed in his eyes. Not only was he a man with a purpose, he was an angry man with a purpose. The kids could sense their father's mood and immediately burst into tears.
Morgan strode purposefully down the path to the coop as Mike and Noel dissolved into puddles of tears. Adam was clinging to my neck again, crying.
"Stop!" I yelled, surprising everyone, including myself. "Morgan, please wait. He's their pet. You can kill him, but let them say goodbye."
He obliged, but I could tell that he wouldn't wait long. I watched Mike and Noel hug and stroke Foghorn for just a few seconds before I could tell that Morgan was done waiting. I sent Mike and Noel back into the house, telling them that I didn't want them to see what was going to happen. I didn't want to see it either, so I held Adam tightly and ran around the house, babbling to him about how we were going to set the sprinkler. I didn't want Adam to hear anything, but honestly, I didn't want to hear it either.
Adam and I took care of the sprinkler, watched the fish in the pond for a while and then played on the swings until I felt that it was safe to find Morgan.
The deed was done, the body disposed of.
Over the next few days, the two remaining roosters seemed confused as they fell into their new roles as alpha and second in command.
A few weeks passed, and Adam never said anything about Foghorn again. He still loved to play with the ducks and the other chickens. I think he realized that the threat only came from one chicken, and that chicken was no longer around.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Mike and Noel were playing outside one afternoon. Mike decided that he would put the ducks into the chicken coop as it looked like there was a storm coming. When he opened the gate, all of the chickens (there were eight) came out and the ducks went in. Mike tried to get the chickens back in but couldn't do it on his own. He asked Noel for help but she didn't want to help. He told her that if she didn't help that Spanky would kill them. She still wouldn't help. Mike gave up and came inside, where he watched TV with Morgan and me and the little boys. He never said anything about the chickens.
I'm not sure of the details of what happened next, but Noel forgot that the chickens were out. She also forgot that our dog is a blood-thirsty chicken killer and she let him outside. She didn't witness what happened, but she was the one who found the carnage. She came running in the house screaming "all of the chickens are dead!" We ran outside to find bodies and feathers everywhere, with Spanky sitting in the middle of it all, goofy dog grin plastered all across his furry face.
We gathered up the bodies which were spread across the yard, counting as we went, hoping that maybe he didn't get them all. We had six bodies. That meant that two were missing. Morgan and Michael began to search, while Noel buried her head in my stomach and cried "It's all my fault!"
I took her inside the house and let the boys stay outside and deal with the dirty work. A few minutes later, an elated Michael burst through the door with a live chicken in his arms.
Apparently she had found her way into the garage and remained hidden there until Mike found her. We decided to call her Lucky, for obvious reasons. Emily called her the "Anne Frank of chickens." We never found the other chicken. I figure he killed it out in the tall weeds where we couldn't find it.
So, we were left with four ducks: two mallards and two pekins and one non-laying chicken. The only reason we bought birds in the first place was for chicken eggs; the ducks were just an afterthought.
Last week, our two pekin ducks disappeared during the day. It wasn't Spanky, he never showed any interest in the ducks. I saw them sleeping the night before and Morgan saw them in the morning as he headed for work. That evening we noticed that the mallards were around but not the pekins. A closer search turned up feathers but no ducks.
Something took my freaking ducks in broad daylight! I think the mallards survived because they can fly a little, which the pekins couldn't and they spend a lot of time swimming in the pond while the pekins stayed in the yard.
Then, today, I swear I am not making this up, Lucky's luck ran out. She flew out of the coop and Spanky got her.
We bought a total of 31 birds, 27 of which were chickens. What do we have left? Two stinking ducks.
In my last effort at bird optimism this year, I am attempting to hatch (in an incubator) four duck eggs and four chicken eggs which I collected before the birds died.
Two ducks. *sigh*