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The great chicken massacre

Having grown up in the city, it was always a treat for me as a kid to go visit Grandma and Grandpa's farm in Kansas. At one time, they raised turkeys as well as crops, but by the time I came around they were down to just a few pigs, chickens and ...

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Having grown up in the city, it was always a treat for me as a kid to go visit Grandma and Grandpa's farm in Kansas. At one time, they raised turkeys as well as crops, but by the time I came around they were down to just a few pigs, chickens and the crops.

Gathering eggs with grandma is one of my fondest memories, so the first chance I had to have chickens once I moved to the ranch, I jumped at it. I researched the different breeds and knew I didn't want just your average, run-of-the-mill bird. That really wasn't me. And I'm not much for a mixed lot of birds either, so I opted to go with Giant Cochins. They do well in the winter, are huge, and have the coolest feathered feet, bar none.

In May 2009, I received a mixed lot of 25 Cochin chicks, and I was so excited. They were just so cute with all their peep-peep-peeping. They aren't always born the color they'll turn out to be, so I thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow into pretty birds.

That year at branding, my dad came and helped build me a hen house for them. They'd completely outgrown the water trough where they were living and needed more space. Carefully, I moved all of them into their new home and we carried it, via the tractor, up the hill to my house.

I left them in the hen house another three weeks, until they were about 10 weeks old. Then I figured it was time to start letting them out during the day. I made sure Zach took the big dogs to work with him on the ranch that morning because I didn't want them to kill or chase the birds.

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I don't recall exactly why I had to leave the house that day.

I do recall that we were in the midst of haying and something broke - a regular occurrence during haying season.

I know I had been out to check on the chicks and enjoyed watching them peck and chase after bugs.

I was gone for maybe 10 minutes, to take tools or something to the boys who were working on whatever piece of godforsaken equipment had quit them, just an eighth of a mile from my house. I remember seeing my little Papillon, Higgins, who had lost his eye earlier that winter, up at the house and I could tell he was chasing the birds.

I jumped back in the pickup and drove as fast I could to the house, where a most horrible sight awaited me.

My chickens were strewn about the yard. Twenty-one of the 24 of them, lying dead: their white, yellow, black, blue and partridge-colored bodies littering the yard. Immediately, I began sobbing, while chastising my little, toy dog. Moments later, Zach pulled up and saw me crying so he asked what was wrong. I told him that Higgins had killed all my chickens. His response- "Higgins? Really?" As he hid a chuckle.

I was so angry at the dog that I asked Zach to shoot him. He, of course, said no, as he knew that's not really what I wanted. He then instructed me to tie a dead chicken to him so that he would have to carry it around for a week or so, as that's supposed to cure this sort of behavior. So I did. As I continued cleaning up dead chicks, I discovered that three of them had survived. One was in the hen house, the other had hid out in some grass, and yet a third, a blue splash, blended in with our house and the rock garden surrounding it. I was able to corral the two back into the hen house where they were promptly locked up.

Then I go check on my dog. This naughty little sucker had managed to roll the chicken off his back and is eating his way through it. Feet and all. At this point, there's nothing I can do, because there's not a lot left of this chicken.

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Higgins managed to avoid a bullet that day and lived for many years after that incident. He may have eaten his way through that chicken, but he never chased or killed another one. On Dec. 28, 2014, at the ripe old age of 14, Higgins left his world. I miss him. However, his legend and reputation live on. Rest in Peace, friend.

Related Topics: CATTLE
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