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This past June, the Keating’s added a member to our family when we received our baby chick, Scatter, the day after she had hatched. We spent at least a few hundred dollars on her, building her a coop, building her a fenced in yard, buying her necessities like a heat lamp and water bowls and feeding her an unending variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Although she became extremely dear to us and was treated as a pet, we also looked forward to eventually getting eggs from her; she was large for her age and probably would have been laying by November or definitely by December. We are unable to put a value on this chicken, however; her life and the love that one little chicken gave us was truly priceless.
We discovered early that we have wild animals such as raccoons and weasels in Corinth that were potential predators of chickens, so we were extremely careful and developed a routine to ensure that our baby would remain safe and get to live her full life unharmed. Scatter had a coop which we regularly inspected for damage so that we could be sure no other animals could get into it. The sliding door on the coop sat against the wall of our house and the top of the coop was fastened with sturdy snaps. The pull-out tray for cleaning the coop was blocked in each night by chairs so that even the most intelligent animals would not be able to get to her. On top of this, the coop was kept on our back porch, which sits a few feet above the ground and is sure to emit human scents to predatory animals. We kept a light on at night, checked on our chicken at all hours and eventually, when the weather got colder, completely enclosed our porch, ensuring that there was very little threat to our chick. All of these features were intended to keep our chicken safe from harm, and we had anticipated harm from wild animals.
What we did not anticipate was harm to our pet from another domestic animal. During the day after spending part of the morning playing with the chicken, having her sit on our laps and eat oats and letting her run around with us on the porch, we would take her to her play area under our carport. There we had built her a fenced enclosure where she could play in the dirt, nest in her box, and eat her daily gourmet selection with sunshine and room to run around. The yard was not enclosed on the top. She occasionally did fly out and she would run up to the porch; usually she just seemed to want to spend her time with us. Hence, the fence was partially to keep her in and mostly to keep potential predators out. Some wild creatures could have dug underneath the wire or scaled the wooden posts but any creatures that would do that in this area are nocturnal and she was only out during the day. Mostly, the fence was to create a boundary in case a random dog or something wandered into our yard. We do occasionally see neighbors’ dogs in our yard and as we hoped, any that had come near our chicken’s yard had been uninterested or deterred by the fence and had left our chicken alone. We were surely a deterrent as well; with someone always home, the chicken was literally checked on at least a few times an hour while outside.
On Nov. 9, I returned home from school and grocery shopping at 12:15 p.m. Within a minute or two of returning home, I heard screaming and sobbing. I ran outside and witnessed what my children were seeing; a small, fawn colored boxer-type dog was inside our fenced in yard, ripping apart and eating our beloved pet. The chicken had been left in an enclosure for at most 15 minutes and this dog had wandered onto our private property in that time and killed her. We could have killed the dog in our devastation and did actually shoot at it after screaming at it but then we made eye contact with it and were heartbroken. The dog was young, scared, hungry and trapped. It had stopped its massacre once we yelled at it but it was too late since our pet had already been disemboweled. It looked afraid and we could see its ribs. We suddenly realized that the dog was unable to get out of the yard and run away. We called animal control because although the dog ended up seeming like it was probably obedient although neglected it had just killed our pet and we were not familiar with the dog or its owner to know if it could be dangerous.
After asking neighbors if they knew whose dog it was, I took a picture of the dog and drove to the house of the most likely owner, whom I had never met. She lives half a mile or maybe a mile down the street. She was on her way out but I showed her the picture and asked if it was her dog. She confirmed that it was hers, telling me, “I’ve been meaning to take it to the shelter. My son was supposed to come yesterday to take it. I don’t want it anymore; it chases cars.” The woman said she was sorry and asked if there was anything she could do and I told her I didn’t think she could bring our pet back to life. I was upset and infuriated that she cared so little for her pet. It had no collar, no license, no fence, and apparently no food. It wasn’t the dog’s fault that it chased cars or that it was hungry and hadn’t found enough to nourish itself in her knocked over garbage cans. Her neglect of her pet has cost us the life of our own and she didn’t seem to feel remorse. I told her we had called animal control and she didn’t react except to say she had meant to get rid of the dog and didn’t want it. She didn’t offer or ask to come retrieve the dog from our yard.
We had not previously raised chickens and didn’t realize how much we would grow attached to her but even friends and family who were more experienced with chickens commented that she was the friendliest, tamest, sweetest chicken they had ever seen. We did everything we knew to keep her safe and she would still be alive and chortling today if another pet owner had taken the responsibility to care for her own pet.