Around 4 a.m. this morning, the dogs were barking to go out. Man, groggily shuffled to the door and released the hounds. Once they hit the yard, there was a complete change in their barks and howls.
“Crap,” Man said as he ran back into the bedroom and grabbed his flashlight off the night stand.
“What is it?” I asked through sleep.
“There’s something out in the chicken coop.”
I bolted from bed. Not too long ago we had a skunk in there that ate one of our chickens and sprayed our dogs. I contemplated filling the tub and getting it ready to dip the dogs.
“It’s a bear!” Man announced. I joined him at the open window and followed the beam of the flashlight to see a big ol’ bear stand up on her hind legs. Drake was barking at her and on his hind legs at the fence. She was on the other side.
“DRAKE!!!” I hollered to him. “LEAVE IT! NO!” and then to Man, “Get the gun.”
While Man went to get the gun and our non-lethal shotgun shells (don’t worry, it only spanks ’em. Doesn’t break the skin) I went out onto the deck with the flash light and continued to call for the dogs to come in.
My stupidly courageous dog kept barking and growling at the bear, though he did back away from the fence. Sasha, our Golden, ran inside. The bear went back on all fours. Man showed up about then.
“Where is she?” he asked as his eyes adjusted to the night again.
“Right there, can you see her eyes? She’s not in the coop.” She was just on the other side of the fence of the hen yard.
I suppose because she had gone back to all fours, Drake charged the fence again and the bear went back on her hind legs. Her top half rose above the fence. One swipe and Drake would be done for. I kept the flashlight on her and Man popped her right in the chest. The bear backed off but did not leave. We got Drake inside.
Man and I tried to get another shot at her so she would hopefully find our chickens unappetizing. Without the dogs barking we could now hear…crunching. Then we heard one of our dear feathered ladies scream. I turned the flashlight to the coop.
“There’s a cub in the coop!” I said.
“Two cubs,” Man sighed in defeat. “She’s not going to leave her cubs and we sure can’t do anything to get them out.”
The Mama Bear snuffled and puffed at us in her triumph.
“My chickens…” I whimpered.
I knew he was right. We returned to our room and snuggled as we listened to the crunch, munch of the bears and the scream of our last chicken.
“Oh honey…” I cried briefly.
“Honestly, I’m glad it was bears instead of a skunk again.”
“We’re a pretty good team, huh?”
We talked about whether or not to restore the flock. Definitely not now but maybe in the Spring. The coop will need repair and renovation.
Neither of us slept and it was not long until Man’s alarm went off. It was still dark, only 5 a.m., so I went to the window and shined the flashlight out at the coop. I could still hear the cubs scratching around in the coop.
“Be careful when you leave for the car,” I warned Man. They’re still out there.”
I checked again around 5:30. The cubs were out of the hen yard and were sleeping under a tree, big round bellies under their chins and Mama Bear standing guard. I wished it was not too dark for a picture!
As bummed as I was about losing our chickens, I was pretty proud of that Mama. She knew how to pick her battles. Just a show of size and flex of muscle was enough to scare off the dogs and she didn’t let a pop from a the rubber shells chase her too far from her cubs. Didn’t have a bite herself but her cubs are fat and happy!
The boys woke about this time and I showed them the sleeping cubs and broke the sad news. Bug was very sad but also understanding.
“You can always buy new chickens but you can’t buy children and those cubs are the bear’s children,” he said.
“Very true, Love Bug.”
“Don’t worry, Bug,” Buddy piped in, “we can get new chicks in the Spring!”
Both boys wanted to go out (after the bears left) to see if anyone happened to make it. One of our chickens in particular has managed to escape the (literal) jaws of death three times. Her name was Easter and was the only chicken we had left from our original flock. Sadly, her luck had run out. She had a good run.
And…now I’m crying a little. Over chickens. *sigh*