The Coop Update I Hoped I’d Never Write

When we renovated our coop we went the extra distance predator proofing it. We replaced the 3/4-inch hardwire cloth with 1/4-inch. We covered even the smallest ventilation hole. We lined the bottom of the run in wire, secured with extra large washers. The framing is all 2x4s and 2x6s. But at 3:00 AM on November 11th a sow bear and her two cubs tore down our fence, ripped out the coop door and its frame like it was kindling, and murdered Zeste and Sel.

I’m not going to waste any space writing about those bears. This is about my birds.

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I don’t have favourites, but they were special because they liked me back. They enjoyed my company, followed me around, and let me hold them.

They were my first chickens. I wanted ducks for herding. I can’t remember why we ended up deciding on chickens instead, but I decided I had to have at least one Belgian chicken to go with my Belgian dog. I initially wanted three large breeds, because I also wanted eggs, but when I saw the Antwerpse, or d’Anvers, I had to have one. Just one though, my novelty bantam with my two large egg producing chickens. That was my plan. Then when I got to the barn they had mistakenly ordered three little bantams and didn’t have the other large chicken I wanted. The guy brought these three tiny fluffs out and put them into the clear viewing container. Right away Zeste scuttled to the front and started pecking at the glass. I was in love. I had to have that bold little chick. But the others were so cute, too. When they told me I could buy all three of the banties if I wanted them, I couldn’t say no. So they tucked all three into a little berry container with some shavings and away we went. And that’s how I ended up with a bantam coop. And I didn’t buy eggs once during these past four years.

They gave me a completely new perspective on birds. From their social structures, to their intelligence, and just how interesting birds are.

Sel is the one on the far left and Zeste is in the middle. No, I didn’t have the photo labeled. I could just tell them apart. That’s how well I knew them. I knew their voices.

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For anyone wondering, Sel was an ever so slightly darker shade of blue and her eyes were just a little bit bigger. But even then I could tell them apart just glancing at them out the window. I just knew. I don’t even know quite how I did. Going back through their photos from 2014 I can tell who they are in the thumbnails. I could tell their eggs apart too. Sel’s were pure porcelain white, while Zeste’s were varying shades of light cream. The difference wasn’t always as obvious as it is in this photo of the first eggs they ever laid, but I could always tell.

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I’d usually be expecting them to lay the first egg of year around this time. When I snapped the photo of last year’s first egg I had no idea it would be their last first egg.

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Sel was sweet and kind, and never bullied, but she ruled the coop and if anyone challenged her she would put them in their place with a single powerful peck. She didn’t bother with drama. If she needed to make a point she just made it and was done. She was friendly and calm with people, and was who I would pick up to let people hold. A bit of a glutton, I have very few clear pictures of her because she always right up in the camera mooching for treats. She genuinely enjoyed attention, and I spent a lot of time over the years sitting at the coop stroking her wings until she fell asleep.

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Sel was the chicken that I took for a walk. Her only flaw was that she was a beard plucker, an overzealous groomer, and all my other girls had bald faces most of the year.

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Zeste was the spitfire. She yielded only to Sel, and everyone else was better off staying out of her way. She once jumped up and bit Gueuze in the butt because I picked him up. Anyone who got in her way would get walloped by her rapid-fire pecking. When I brought them fresh smelt she flew up onto the container and stole the largest fish. I had a habit of bringing her in the house when it was raining so I could get my dose of chicken pets.

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When she was 9 weeks old Zeste suddenly stopped eating. For a week she had to move back in the house and every few hours I had to syringe vitamin water drop by drop to her beak and feed her with a spoon. All she would eat was millet mixed with coconut oil. I didn’t think she was going to make it, but she ended up growing up to be the strongest hen.

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As horrible as it is, in some ways it’s fitting they were taken together. They’re never have to go a day away from each other. It hurts so badly to lose both my girls at the same time, but they were always together. They hatched together (June 30, 2014), laid their very first eggs on the same day at the same time, went broody together, and now they’ve died together.

15.04.22

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