Larry is Gone

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Heifer is my most affectionate hen. She is the brown one in this photo. Larry and Darrell follow closely in affection too. Well...not Larry anymore. 😦 Larry's sister, Darrell, is the white Leghorn here.

Last night, I lost Larry.  😦

You might think it an odd name, but Larry is a chicken.  A white Leghorn hen.  One of my best laying hens and one of my two most affectionate and interactive “girls.”

I knew having free range hens was a gamble.

I know I would be furious and out for revenge if Larry was lost to a free running dog that a neighbor should have contained better.

But….Larry was taken by a Bald Eagle…doing what Bald Eagles do.

Now I don’t know how to feel.  Very sad, of course, I love Larry and all her fluffy, happy sisters.  She was a pet to me, like another person’s cat or dog.  But, how can I be furious at the eagle?  I would be a hypocrite if I took issue with nature taking its course.

All of my girls have odd names. Most have barnyard animal names. This is our biggest girl, Dog. She lays enormous brown eggs like clockwork every day.

It seems that I should be angry with myself for not keeping the hens in their little coop and, thus, exposing them to danger.  But…then they would spend their lives in a little pen, eating what kitchen and garden scraps and chicken feed I gave them; rather than running about happily eating bugs and grass seeds, selecting for themselves what foods they needed, with (and I swear this is true) big smiles on their beaks.

So I ask you.

What should I do?  Keep them penned in and safe?  OR Allow them free range in the midst of possible danger?

Here are some of my mixed variety hens. They lay a mixture of brown, blue, green, and white eggs for me.

Do you have chickens? 

How do you handle this problem?

Bunny is a very old Brahma hen. She raised the other's as chicks and really doesn't lay much as she is so excited by all the eggs that she wants to brood them all of the time. She's un pollo loco.


About vkhanson

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17 responses »

  1. We don’t have chickens (although my better half keeps hinting and nudging me that direction. He would LOVE it if I said yes to a half-dozen laying hens.) Some of our neighbors have free-range chickens. One of neighbors lets their chickens REALLY range…like onto the adjoining properties up and down our road, including our property which is twice-removed from their 5 acres, most of which is fenced in. They’re more like nomadic, wandering chickens than merely free-ranging chickens.

    Our dog is lazy but she likes chicken. Do you see where I’m going with this?

    Yes, two of their chickens have run afoul (sorry) of our big, old, slow-moving Samoyed. One didn’t make it out alive, one got all his tailfeathers taken off – fortunately, that’s all the dog got was a mouthful of feathers.

    I feel terrible for the chickens who have crossed my pooch’s path. But our dog is on our property. She’s not vicious, and she won’t bother to chase them when they are down the road. (I did say she was lazy, right?) But the dog is my strongest argument against having chickens – I won’t keep them or her cooped up, and I can’t turn them all loose in the backyard. I’m sorry to hear about your bird. I do understand they become very domesticated and beloved pets as well as egg-producers.

    • Good point, well made. I do worry about dogs. And I would definitely understand it was my fault if my hens strolled over to the neighbors and their dog or cat got them.
      I really wonder if I would have preferred something else to blame, rather than myself for having them in the lawn. The eagle took the bird right out of the back lawn 10 feet from the house.
      Penning chickens up seems akin to the cruelty of keeping a dog on a chain day in and day out. Do you think differently? Free-range chickens is a gray area I never would have guessed at. Is this a lifestock vs pet issue? Then…what defines “pet?”

      • I grew up on a farm. We raised 100 frying chickens each year and we kept them penned. We didn’t name any of the livestock because they were never pets. (I guess it’s why I had such a fondness for Charlotte’s Web, because it was a rosier view of farm life 😉 In the past, we had to keep our pets on a chain and/or in a run and I didn’t like it but I also didn’t want them indoors for 12 hours at a stretch. We are fortunate: I now work from home and we have a dog who rarely roams off our property. We have a fenced back yard and she can go in and out as many times as she pleases in a day and when she wants to hang out in the front yard with us, we don’t need to have her on a leash or chain. But to answer your question, I guess I would consider laying hens to be somewhere in between pet and livestock. You get attached to them and their personality, but they aren’t quite in the same league as a house pet.

      • I had the same farm experience you did, growing up. I never expected these hens to become such beloved little things. And you are correct, I don’t bring them in or play “fetch” with them so not fully pets. Just chalk it up to reality knocking!
        I still have to decide whether to risk their exposure in the lawn (their eggs are TONS better when they are free-range, too) or keep them safe but less happy.

  2. Oh I’d love to have some hens, something so cosy and homely and great about them. So did you find Larry? I hope he is back home safely soon, I agree with you wanting them to be out and about enjoying themselves, I’d do the same.

    • Unfortunately, Larry became dinner for a Bald Eagle. No getting her back. Her sisters, Darrell, are quite upset and missing her. Now I must decide whether is is best to let them in the lawns and be happy and potentially in danger, or keep them penned and unhappy. Do you have room for a couple of hens? Wonderful little creatures.

      • Ah very sorry to hear about Larry, poor thing. Would it be weird getting a new addition so soon? I don’t have my own place at the moment so no hens for me but when I do I am really keen on the idea. We have quite a lot of foxes around here so it’s probably for the best too.

      • I think I will wait on getting a new chick to replace her for a little while. I want to resolve the in-pen or free-range issue as much as I can first. We also have fox, racoon, and opposum (along with eagles and hawks), so the danger is clearly present. BUT…the eggs from free-range hens are simply AMAZING!

  3. anabaptistcountryman

    My dear Friend,

    Very sorry to hear about the plight of the chicken. We have ducks here, and Bald Eagles that perch a mere eight or ten feet overhead (one photographed, on my own page, a few weeks ago). I had imagined that the dogs would keep the eagles at bay, as all run free here. However, I shall most certainly, at least, try to “clap” them away; or otherwise, as gently as possible get them to move off to the mountain behind us, rather than the trees by our house.

    Many thanks for presenting this story. I shall take it as a welcome and timely warning for our own animals here.

    All the very best to you;
    and, most sorry again, for the loss of your barnyard companion.
    I remain,
    Yours very sincerely,
    Philip Livingstone

    • Thank you so much for your kind comments. I am surprised that the eagles near your house haven’t made off with dinner. Plenty of fish nearby?

      • anabaptistcountryman

        Hello! Yes indeed, there is a salmon stream which runs along the front border of our farm. The fish, however, only “run” from October to January, and the one photographed immediately overhead (on my page) appeared at the beginning of April.

        We do back onto a mountain, the streams from which are filled with fry, flowing into a large pond in our back field, and from there, to the running stream in front. I should not have thought that such would interest the eagles, however (?)

        I cannot but wonder if our Pekin ducks were being evaluated (despite their large size) and, had the dogs not been present …?

        I shall, as mentioned, remember your account, and gently “move them along”, should any more alight so close.

        Very nice to hear from you! I do intend to return for a visit to your own page, but am certainly glad to have read of your account, although sad, in itself, in the meantime.

        Lovely ro hear from you. Many thanks indeed!
        Yours sincerely, once again,
        Philip Livingstone

  4. Oh honey, this is a terrible delimnia. I grew up on a farm with 100 or so of what are now called free-range chickens. They just ran around our property and I had no idea they would become chic when I was older. Anyway, the first rule of owning livestock is that there is a cycle to life and if you are going to name them, you are going to grieve them. I decided to show a calf one year. I thought it was great fun and when a company bought my champion for $500 I was thrilled – until I asked where “little bit” was going and I was told” to slaughter”. You know, that still hurts and I’ll be 50 this year. One year, while we were on vacation, a group of teenagers thought it would be cool to feed all our animals rotten food……..we were located on the highway 1000 miles from home by a highway patrolman. When we got home there were 5 vets on our property trying to save 40 head of cattle, my7 horses, 4 rabbits 100 chickens, and 2 dogs. They all died that night……….every single animal. I was a teenager myself but I made a choice to love and lose instead of not loving the animals at all. I’m sorry for your loss………good luck.

    • Thank you. Your words have brought me tears. You are so right. As it has been sung and said “better to have loved and lost…” (perhaps not about the subject of chickens snatched by eagles) I would prefer to be a feeling person, than a cold one. I always thought I understood the cycle of life, having been on a farm for decades. My un-understood problem was that I didn’t understand the difference between farm and fun. I am now “homesteading” out of love of doing it and enjoyment (I’ve been a successful executive…nothing compares to getting your hands naturally dirty). I am 45 and find that I still have lessons to learn. Thank you, friend. Your story of the enormous loss of livestock is truly a lesson for me and was very hard for you…still. What is it said? The fall of a single sparrow is known by God…but maybe that simple lowly sparrow had a lesson to teach.

      • Sadly you are correct. I had a pet chicken myself and her name was Tuffy. One day my dad told me she went to live with a relative of hers….I was young. But, I swear I wanted to believe it so much it was probably 16 before I recognized dad had spared me some pain because she just died. On a lighter note: My dad always said if you love your chickens they lay more eggs………

      • 🙂 I get a lot of eggs.

  5. Hey there! I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. I adore your blog! Check it out:


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