Monday, February 25, 2008


When we lived in New York, Patrick and I had about 100 laying hens that we raised from day-old chicks. Once they were big enough to leave the brooder, we moved most of them to the farm but kept a handful in a small coop behind our house so we'd have easy access to eggs.

Unfortunately, the neighborhood raccoons suddenly had easy access to chickens. The coop was right outside bedroom in front of a sliding glass door and I would often wake up in the middle of the night to find two huge raccoons trying to get into the coop. We were religious about making sure the hens were safely inside before dark but one evening we got hung up at some weekend event and came home to a chicken massacre.

There were dead chickens all over the place, most of them with just one bite taken out of them. It was awful. After noticing that we were short one body I grabbed a flashlight and found one hen, sitting on the snow, catatonic.

She had been attacked- her head was bleeding- but she was still alive. I brought her into our laundry room and to try and nurse her back to health, but I didn't think their was much hope.

I couldn't have been more wrong. We named her Grace and, before long, she was walking around our kitchen and eating grain out of our hands. She was in the house for months because, if we'd put her back in with the other hens, they probably would have killed her. (It's pretty shocking how vicious chickens can be to one another. Seriously.) But eventually, Grace healed and we took her to farm and, frankly, kind of forgot about her.

Then we moved to Martha's Vineyard and decided that 100 laying hens was about 90 to many. We sold all but a handful. The one's we could catch easily went to new homes and we moved the eight or so that we had left in with the nanny goats a few weeks ago.
So I got a really nice surprise a few last weekend when I was hanging out in the hoop house and Grace walked up to me.

She is easy to identify because the raccoon did some permanent damage to her head. With the exception of the bottle babies, Grace is the only animal I've ever taken care that seemed grateful. Now, whenever I'm in the barn Grace comes over and lets me pet her a bit. The other chickens run away like I'm chasing them with an axe whenever I get anywhere near them.

Although it hadn't occurred to me to make sure Grace didn't get sold with the other hens, I'm awfully glad she's still with us. She is an exceptional hen.


--Deb said...

That's a great story!

kelly said...

What a sweet story! Thanks for sharing that.

Quirkles said...

I love your stories and am glad you still have Grace to pet.