A sad update from the chicken coop
Backyard Chickens

A Sad Update From the Chicken Coop

Last week, a raccoon attacked our Barred Rock, Kimora, and our Golden Laced Cochin, Iman, in their coop. My husband heard the commotion but didn’t make it outside in time. According to him, it was the most heartbreaking sound he’d ever heard, like a peacock in angst.

He found Kimora’s body in the coop, along with a shaken Iman. The latter sustained a small injury to her head, but our brave Kimora never had a chance. I’d like to think she died while trying to protect her sister, as it’s the only way I can accept what happened. No animal — no pet — deserves to die so helplessly and violently, and I’m devastated to think how frightened they must have been in what’s supposed to be their safe place.

When we brought Iman inside the house, there was a laceration straight across the top of her head and a large portion of her comb was severed and dangling. She suffered no other injuries to her body, her eyes were bright and clear, and her beak was intact. Will gave her some water and swaddled her in a bath towel. I cleaned as much blood as I could off her head so I could assess the seriousness of her wounds.

There was no way her comb would reattach itself, and since she was no longer bleeding, we made a quick decision to prepare for a mini “surgery” on the kitchen counter. We disinfected our sharpest shears and cut off the end of her comb. This would keep it from rotting, promote faster healing, and head off any possible infection. We liberally sprayed the new cut and the laceration with Vetericyn, made a temporary coop inside our house (just a cardboard box with a pet urine pad), and let her rest for the night.

The next morning, Will buried Kimora with a handful of mealworms under the banana trees, her favorite place to hide eggs back in the day. We planted flower bulbs around her grave marker, a large river stone that she loved to perch on in the chicken run.

I didn’t see the aftermath of the attack in the coop, nor did I see Kimora’s body before burial. I’m not sure I could’ve handled it. I realize it’s the circle of life and chickens are the ultimate prey, but it doesn’t make the pain of losing one any easier.

Perhaps what’s most difficult for me is knowing Iman is all alone, having first lost Gisele a few years ago and now Kimora. The original Three Amigas will never be the same.

Since chickens are social animals, we brought home three new pullets shortly after the attack. The plan is to quarantine them in a separate coop while Iman is healing, and integrate them soon afterward so she won’t be lonely. I’ll be honest, it’s a little hard to get excited about new chickens under these circumstances, but I know they’ll be a fun addition to the flock and much-needed company for Iman.

At present, she seems to be recovering well. We treat her injuries with Vetericyn twice a day, and her laceration closed within a day or two. We added vitamins and electrolytes to her water to ease the stress and she’s drinking, but not too interested in eating. Will caught a grasshopper for her the other day and that seemed to light a fire under her for a brief moment, but she’s not scarfing down her feed like she normally does. Each day, I hand feed her a spoonful of baby bird formula to ensure she’s receiving some of her daily nutrients.

We’re letting her free-range in the vegetable garden near our kitchen, where we can keep an eye on her, and she’s slowly starting to peck and scratch again. It’s heavy on my heart to see her out there by herself; sometimes she’ll just sit under the mulberry tree and tuck her head into her feathers.

We imagine she’s still in a little shock, so we’ve been giving her extra attention and even the baby has been loving on her. Iman is so calm and comfortable around us, it gives me hope that she’ll be back to her old self at some point.

My lovely girls in the garden

This little lady is a fighter and a survivor. You may remember that she’d sustained another raccoon attack over a year ago, and after a few weeks of care, her wing healed up nicely. We’re rooting for her to pull through this one, too, and are so thankful that she’s still with us.

All in all, it’s been a rough week and I feel my emotions running up and down in relief and anger, gratitude and sadness. This is the worst part of raising chickens — by their very nature, they are short-lived as pets compared to other animals, but they still hold a significant place in your heart. And with a small flock, especially, it’s hard not to get attached.

I’ve been finding comfort in re-reading my tribute to Gisele, our Easter Egger who passed in 2013. I plan to write a proper send-off to Kimora when I’m ready, and one day, I hope to have another Barred Rock as beautiful and wonderful as she was.

Rest in peace, Kimora. May you soar high in the sky with your sister.

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  • Frances Rose

    I am so very sorry. Love my chickens so understand your pain.

  • So sad, it’s always so hard when our chickens come down with an illness. Hope she feels better soon

  • Thank you so much. Chickens are so sweet that I know I’ll get attached to each new flock member that we add over the course of our lifetime. I can’t help it. 🙂

  • Thank you so much for sharing. I believe the first flock always holds such a special place in our hearts. I credit my Three Amigas with teaching me so much about myself and life in general. <3

  • Silly Little Sheep

    It is so sad. I hope your girl will recover soon and then join the new flock. I hope she’ll be happy again.

  • Aaron Stoner

    I’m sorry about your hens. A predator got two of mine too-a silver polish rooster and my red hen I’ve had since I started raising chickens, I don’t know if it was a possum or a raccoon because they disappeared without a trace and the rest of the flock was fine. It’s like losing two family members almost.

  • Linda

    I am so very sorry for your loss – I too have shared that heart ache. Seems like the predators are every where . I gave up and moved all of mine into a building. In the pretty weather I move them out each day in little corrals that have tops on them and bring them back in each night. Right now I am digging them greens and taking in to them and they really love that. I had planted greens for them in the winter garden and darn if deer didn’t get in and mow that down! GRRRR! I cannot let them out during the day because of the coyotes and the hawks – at night it is raccoons and opossums and owls and minks! So it is a constant battle. I did like the fellow on youtube who built a solid house for the night and an electrified netting around them ?

    • Thank you. It’s so hard. I love seeing my hens free-range in the yard but potential predators do make me think twice. Finding that balance of letting them roam but keeping them protected is one I’m still working on.

  • Ohhhhh no! So sorry to hear this. Was this during the day or night? How heart breaking. Really my biggest fear… hang in there.

    • It was at night. Our run/coop was open and we didn’t lock it in time before the raccoon got in. Unfortunately, this means we’ll probably corral the chickens into their run before sundown from now on since the raccoons seem to be coming out earlier.

  • I’m so sorry to hear about this! Poor Iman and poor Kimora! This is the number one reason I’m afraid to keep chickens, but I hope to be brave enough to someday. We can all tell how much love and enjoyment you get from them, and those chickens have better lives than some humans, they are very lucky chickens to have landed with your family 🙂

    • Thank you so much! And while the loss is heartbreaking, the joys and experience of raising them far outweighs the sadness, I think. I struggle with it but I know it’s the truth.

  • TAC

    Heartbreaking loss for sure. I’ve never raised chicken so am not knowledgeable about them but is there anything you can do to make their coop safe from future predator attacks, at least smaller ones? It would be horrible to keep living that cycle. Unfortunately, the natural habits of wild animals can be brutal.

    • Our coop is predator-proof and rodent-proof. Unfortunately, the raccoon came around before we were able to close it up for the night.

  • Sarah

    I’m so sorry to hear this. No matter the animal, it’s hard to lose them. Sounds like she led a wonderful life and was loved! Perhaps you could make a photo picture book for your daughter to help her/you remember your feathered friends?

    • That sounds wonderful. I’ve started taking more pictures of her with our surviving chicken, just to make sure she retains these adorable early memories.

  • Marcelle Carss

    I’m so sorry for your loss, I know only too well the pain and guilt and resentment, even 3 years on (I know, get a grip other people may think). I lost my beautiful girls to a fox attack – all 8 of them with only 1 taken which made me so angry and devastated at the pointless loss and trauma of it all. The worst part was that I felt like I failed them in not being able to protect them and how scared they must have been and I couldn’t be there to save them. All in all I did what I could but was frustrated by the feeling of hopelessness at not being able to protect them no matter how hard I tried, and being outsmarted by a wily creature that killed at opportunity and didn’t even make it worth their time and effort. As an animal lover of all animals, this was particularly hard to swallow. Give yourself a pat on the back for having been the best mum – they knew they were loved and flourished in that love, its us that have to move on, even though its so hard. The new chicks will creep into your heart before you know it, and you’ll always have your other girls in your heart XxX

    • Thank you for sharing your story, that’s so awful and I, too, struggle with being an animal lover but feeling so much anger toward the raccoon. Knowing how much personality our chickens have, and how they interact with us day to day, it’s heartbreaking to imagine how they must have felt that night. We’re now spoiling Iman like crazy and hoping she’ll live a good, peaceful life as she approaches her senior years. (I can’t believe she’s already 5 years old!)

      • Marcelle Carss

        Absolutely, its not a pleasant experience to remember or relive in your head! All the best to you all (and lucky Iman!) – loving your blog and the sharing of wisdom and tips, I have learned a lot. XxX

  • yawningreyhound

    I’m so sorry, I’ll never forget the July ’16 day Br’er Bear broke into our ‘coon-, fox-, rodent-, mountain lion-, coyote-proof coop cage. Ate 2 of our 4 remaining “flood” chickens (flock we inherited from the Colorado flood evacuees). It was so traumatic, eggs weren’t laid for 3 weeks; and one of the remaining birds went into broody mode. Their entire enclosure is now surrounded with 50,000 volts during bear season. But they have a fenced 1/2 acre for free ranging days that isn’t electrified so I play Sports radio all day which apparently scares away the predators who prefer no human contact. The silver lining is that the alpha bird who pecked my omega bird got eaten by the bear and the remaining two birds are actually THRILLED Onyx is gone. 4 year old Omega “Frost” has her tail feathers back and her butt-area-under-her-vent is perfectly feathered in. Her frequently inadequately shelled eggs are now perfect, too; who knew how much stress that mean bird brought into her life!!!!!! It is amusing to watch the power struggle between two omega birds. “You be boss.!” NOOOOO YOU be boss. No, you! NOOOOOO youuuuuuuu! I watch the politics every day and both remain sweet-tempered omega birds. A bit leaderless, but maybe that falls to me, now. Hugs to you and your nestlings (Human and feathered).

    • I laughed out loud at your story, thank you for that. And I can’t even begin to think how crazy it must be to make a coop BEAR-proof! Whoa. Here we have raccoons, opossums, and the occasional coyote, but that’s next level. 🙂

  • Linda, I’m so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you. Your animals are very blessed to be part of your family!

  • Michelle Desch

    Reading this broke my heart. It is always so difficult to lose a pet. I am sorry for your loss. My husband and I have lost two beautiful bantams to hawks. We have taken steps to keep them safe but the hawks around here are bold, one flew right over me, while I was talking (he knew I was there) and got ready to attack my chickens that were only 2 feet away from me! We will be getting 3 new ladies (our flock is down to two right now). Enjoy your new birds!

    • Thank you. We’ve seen the occasional hawk in our neighborhood and it’s definitely on our minds, especially with the new pullets. Ugh, so hard to figure out how to keep them safe without being a helicopter chicken parent!

  • Joanne Toft

    Sorry to hear of the loss of Kimora. It is very hard to lose a pet – especially this way! I am excited to see how the new littles fit into the family!

  • Rachel Milne

    I’m so sorry to hear Kimora passed. But I’m glad Iman survived and is doing better. I always loved reading about your girls!
    We lost 6 young chickens in one swoop 2 years back. We think it was a Fisher that got them. Only ever found 3 bodies in the bush behind their enclosure. They were all Buff Brahams and they were really friendly. It’s devastating to lose pets like that.
    I hope Iman enjoys her new coop mates and I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of all of them.

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