When I get the notion to do something, I like to read all I can about it. I especially like knowing the potential downside of something. This is because I can go off on a wild tangent without a second thought if I get too enthused and don't think something through. Hearing the horror stories of others who may have had a similar "brilliant idea" is always a good reality check for me and makes me think about what I'm proposing to undertake.
I think this is where our current society suffers from the lack of close community and the value that elders play. They've seen it, know how to fix it if you can, and reasons for being cautious if need be. Luckily, we have an alternative with blogs and other online sources of information to help with this process although you don't really know the source and if it is reliable. Yet, it's what most of us have and it is better than nothing. If you're fortunate enough to have a seasoned family member or neighbor who will mentor and advise you, consider yourself blessed!
We started raising a few chickens last year. This was supposed to be my venture on our little farm place but my husband is a kind and steady partner after developing a fondness for our cackling friends too. I had read all there was before we got into it and we prepared the best coop we could, which ends up being an enclosed stall in the big barn. We gave them windows, a light, a fan in the summer, heat lamp in the winter. They have a fenced area to keep them well and safe.
But, the cooing and cackling got to be too much for me by the end of last summer. These guys really wanted to be out and able to roam as much as possible, devouring bugs and I don't know what else, as they pleased. Each night I trudge out to the barn, check water and put the "girls" to bed by locking them back in their coop. The corners and edges of the coop are secured with heavy wire, doors are latched and, as best we know, they are safe as can be.
But, the other day when I came home from work, something was not right. First, my little flock didn't rush to meet me as they hoped for a quick handout. What I saw instead were feathers in the yard. A trip to the barn revealed two missing chickens and a path of more feathers leading to the barn. The remaining chickens were sitting in a dark corner of the barn and ran to cluster around my feet when they saw me.
Further investigation indicated that only one bird was taken and the other must be hiding somewhere. I looked and called but no success or response. What remained of the first bird was found in the neighbor's field and sadly confirmed what we knew had happened. The next day that I came home from work there were feathers but these belonged to the missing second bird. From the looks of it, she had been hiding in the little ravine on the edge of our property, made a run for the barn but didn't quite make it. It was a sad discovery and I was surprised at how sad it made me feel. Our impression is that the "attack" came from above since they were hiding under things when let out. Had the attack come from a dog or coyote or fox, they would have gone up off the ground.
My reality check? Nobody is completely safe. As hard as we tried, as much as we cared and provided shelter, despite numerous precautions - if you're going to let your chicks (or kids or spouse, or yourself) explore the world and be free, stuff is going to happen. I still let my chickens out but more cautiously now knowing it can easily happen again. It probably will, to be honest. Even though they only go out when I get home from work, I know, it is no guarantee. Stuff still happens.