I killed them all. Eighteen faithful hens, some very old, from our original, first flock. One beautiful Buff Orpington rooster: Captain Fluffybutt! It was all my fault. I cared too much! February 15, 2015: it was really cold, about 5 degrees. It was also really windy, and it had been dry for a long time. Surely they needed an additional heat source, right? At least enough to keep their water from freezing? Sure, I thought. So I mounted the heat lamp lower to the ground than usual, closer to the waterer. Big mistake...
I hadn't properly appreciated the danger of sparking a chicken coop fire with the heat lamp I was trying to use to help our beloved flock. My family had enjoyed having a backyard flock of chickens for about 6 years. We had kept some beautiful birds, lost some wonderful pets, integrated “rescue” hens, and had an “eco-loop” system for our micro-farm that included the amazing compost produced by these birds. Our chickens were an integral part of our lives. We loved them, cared for them, and they cared for us.
Some of our wonderful hens!
Captain Fluffybutt - so regal!
But that night at about 6:30 pm there was a knock on the door when we were just sitting down to eat supper: “Mr. Tim, your coop is on fire!”
Our Chicken Coop Fire
We ran outside to see the chicken coop fire: it was completely engulfed in flames. It was so hot; it was huge. I never knew the power of fire until that moment. I realized that I couldn’t even get close enough to open the coop door without getting burned myself. There was nothing I could do. I was helpless. All I could do is watch. No hose nearby, not enough time to turn on the water and drag the hose up to the coop. The water in the water harvesting barrels was frozen solid. But something had to be done; if we didn’t put out that fire quickly, the house would catch on fire, and that was unthinkable.
The siding on our house was lost, but thankfully the house itself did not catch on fire.[/caption] All those thoughts took a microsecond in my head. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911. We’re just a mile from our local fire station. We heard the sirens getting closer---slowly---and louder---slowly---and we watched the siding on the house melt, watched the chicken coop fire spread across the ground toward the house. I stomped on the smaller, creeping flames. How long does it take a fire truck to travel ONE mile??? An eternity, when your life is going down in flames. My traumatized kids were herded out of the house into our van. We moved the van into a neighbor’s driveway and tried to warm it up as fast as possible. My 5 adopted kids - each with their own adoption-related issues and diagnoses to deal with---watched it all from across the street. What were they thinking? FINALLY the big red trucks arrived. And after some haggling with the hoses, the chicken coop fire was out in seconds. Firefighters are heroes. They literally saved the day.
Steam rises as firefighters begin putting out the fire.[/caption] That was the end of the fire, but the beginning of a year and a half---even 2 years---of cleaning up, rebuilding our lives, and beginning again with chickens. I haven’t even really gardened since then. Not like before. Even writing this blog is an act of rebuilding. Sure, we got our new flock of chicks from My Pet Chicken in August of 2016 and they’re amazing: 13 colorful birds from 13 different breeds and colors... but do I LOVE them like I loved that old flock? Honestly? No. At least not yet. It’s painful; it hurts. I can HAVE chickens, but if I REINVEST myself, I open myself up to more pain: the pain of loss. Love = potential pain. It’s easier to run from love, to harden, to avoid, to say, “Those are my wife’s chickens,” or "they’re just birds," and run from vulnerability. But when we do that, something inside us dies. That long-dead chicken coop fire can kill a still kill a part of YOU, too. If you let it. And I won’t. I can’t! Writing this blog post is part of the healing. Just putting the pain in print is cathartic. I’ve resisted writing it for a year. A YEAR of wondering, why can’t I blog about chickens? Why do I feel blocked? I’ve helped hundreds of customers with THEIR love of chickens for over a year, but I’ve been afraid to really care about these birds again for myself. Until now. I’m writing this blog to say I’m starting again. Starting again to love my flock, love the living things around me, in spite of the fear of loss, the potential pain. I’m starting again. Today.
Our new set-up, with beautiful birds from My Pet Chicken!