We used to have chickens. We housed them in our backyard, in several iterations of a homemade chicken coop. We got three chickens at once, learned it was better for them to not be alone. Our neighbor girls had raised chicks in their classroom, they were looking for takers to adopt the fuzzy creatures. We were childless, homesteading was en vogue. Why not?
They came to us with names already; I can’t remember them all. I do remember Becky. White feathers, she was unassuming, not the leader, not the most endearing; a ready follower.
Raccoons roamed our city neighborhood like a carnivorous gang, looking for trouble. Sometimes I’d turn on the back porch Iight to catch a glimpse of their panda-like fur, eyes glinting in the sudden illumination. They didn’t seem to scatter like other animals, held their own. They were arrogant, behaved as if they belonged there and wouldn’t be deterred by a human intrusion.
One night we woke to horrible screeching. At first it sounded like a child, a dramatically tortured innocent. I realized it was the chickens, our chickens, crying into the night air, desperate for escape. They were trapped by our carefully placed chicken wire, the sturdy boards of our coop.
My husband went into the backyard to witness the carnage, chase away the culprits, recover plume and innards strewn across the lawn. I would discover feathers weeks later, flown to corners of our yard unnoticed that first night, that next day. I don’t know all the details of what he found, couldn’t stomach the specifics.
The next morning I heard a familiar noise, distinctly bird-like. Over on the neighbor’s roof was Becky, injured leg, hobbling and whimpering but alive. Becky was a survivor. How she escaped the raccoon’s rampage is a mystery. Quiet and unassuming, still, she had the grit to somehow endure. We took her to the bird vet and spent weeks painstakingly feeding her antibiotics for her wound infection.
We adopted other chickens over the years, nine in total. Some were lost to faulty gendering (roosters out themselves quickly with their incessant crowing), others succumbed to subsequent raccoon attacks. Becky survived to the end. When she finally surrendered we decided to close up shop on chicken rearing. We enjoyed some very expensive eggs and learned a justified wariness toward savage raccoons.