reluctant chicken owner ...


Sep 24, 2019
I’ve consulted this site many times: useful practical advice, including on health issues. Thank you!

We’ve had dogs, a cat, horses and chickens living all at the same time, in harmony (!) on our property since 2010.

I have a slight - apparently common - phobia around birds, especially pigeons and chickens: I get short of breath, a little panicky, can’t physically touch them or even get near them unless I’m well covered (boots and gloves).

However, I agreed we might have chickens, since other horse-owning friends kept them, in order to reduce fly larvae in the horse manure, and thus flies in the neighbourhood. My husband really wanted them, too.

The fly reduction function never worked: the chickens are extremely free range, over maybe an acre of our own land, plus the vineyards that surround our house on three sides. The chickens hop over our fence to browse the vineyard soil, etc ... In general, they’re very contented, and also long-lived. There’s no predator problem around here (at least, only very occasional stray dogs).

I’ve helped care for the chickens - feeding, opening and closing the chicken coop morning and evening, researching illnesses - but have never physically handled one in the nine years we’ve had them. My husband dealt with sick chickens, culled surplus roosters and rescued chickens that occasionally got stuck between bales in the hay shelter.

We haven’t named our chickens or treated them as pets, but they’ve been part of the background of life here.

Awkward development: my husband left home late last year, abandoning not only me but our horses, chickens, etc.

For six months I managed perfectly well, but began to get anxious - neurotically so - about what I’d do if a chicken became ill, or trapped, or needed handling. I knew I just wouldn’t be able to deal with any problem ... even though problems are actually rather rare.

I began to consider having the flock put down, but didn’t want to be brutal.

In the end, I found a hen-owning elderly lady who was happy to add our females to her own flock. She tells me that I can have them back any time I like, or they can stay with her: ideal flexibility!

I didn’t feel able to ask her, however, to take our rooster: our original rooster, 9 years old, gentle and easy to deal with, a great flock master whom all the hens were comfortable around. We’d been obliged to cull younger roosters (noise, too many for the females, etc) but had kept the old rooster because he had such a great presence. The elderly friend who took the hens had three roosters herself, and I feared ours might be attacked. Nor did I want to keep him alone here without his females. So ... I had him killed: quickly and humanely, at bedtime since he’d been increasingly in recent years overwhelmed with sleepiness once roosting. He’d really had a good life ... All sorts of excuses! I expect it wasn’t totally wrong of me to take this course. However, I’ve felt just terrible about it since ... It’s become part of the whole negative saga of my husband’s departure ... I can’t help thinking that the rooster never harmed anyone or any other creature ... He fulfilled all his responsibilities yet he lost his life because my husband gave up on his own responsibilities.

I’m planning now to bring the hens back, several months after they were housed by my elderly friend and the rooster was killed ... They have a freer life here, because we have far more space. I shan’t have another rooster, thus dealing with any worry about additional chickens ... I hope that by doing my best for the hens, perhaps I’ll get over my guilt at ending the rooster’s life. I now know too that if I have a problem to deal with among the hens that entails handling, I could call on a couple of people not too far away ... I should have thought of this and relied on it before.

Anyway, at present chickens = guilt and inadequacy in my life. Any psychologists out there with advice?!
Hello @vmharris I am sorry to hear of your dilemma. If you would like someone to talk to, you can send me a private message.

I understand and respect your fear of birds. I have a friend who is deathly afraid of them. If you need help becoming more comfortable around them, I may be able to give you some advice.

Hello! Welcome to BYC!! :frowThat was quite the introduction. I'm sorry for your troubles and hope that you can overcome your fear enough to manage your chickens alone. Or maybe you've got a friend that can help when needed. What's done is done with the rooster, so no sense beating yourself up about it. Onward and upward. Good luck to you.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom