Friday, February 18, 2011

Strange Things are Afoot at the Cluck-n-Neigh

We've had a massive setback here on the farm, and I don't mind telling you it's downright discouraging. Last night I had a light bulb moment, and not of the pleasant kind. I had been wondering why our egg production seemed to be so poor. I had been blaming the wacky weather, but once it became less wacky I assumed production would go back to normal. There had been a few odd tickles at the back of my mind that seemed odd, but none taken alone were enough to raise suspicion. First it was an empty roost pole, but the hens had taken to roosting in a corner, piling up like a litter of puppies. There had been a few feathers here and there by the coop door, but I it looked like someone was molting more than anything else. Besides, I was doing my animal routine in the dark that week due to being in Memphis all day long.

Last evening around sunset, the picture became all too clear when I went looking for a few stubborn birds that for some reason hadn't come in from the yard. When I discovered an empty yard with all the girls safely roosted, it  hit me like a thump to the back of the head. Chickens were missing. I looked more closely. A LOT of chickens were missing.  By the end of the third head count, I realized all too late and with much disgust and anger what those tickles in my mind had been trying to tell me.

Someone has been catching, strangling stealing my chickens. Those feathers by the door were NOT molted, but the result of the heartless method one uses when they "wring" a chicken's neck by whirling it by the head like a bullroarer. Over  30 birds dead.

You may ask, "how on earth would she not notice for a week?" Simple. It happened while I was spending a lot of time in Memphis at Pema Karpo Meditation Center for the Monlam Chenmo (The Great Prayer Festival). I was leaving before dawn and coming home well after dark, doing animal routine by flashlight. So of course I wasn't noticing there were fewer black lumps in darkened corners. In other words, while I'm off the farm for some incredible teachings by Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche on a Tibetan text that has not even been translated into English yet (and might not be in my lifetime) and praying for world peace, some jackwagon has been killing my beloved chickens. For what? A quick meal? A mean prank? An insatiable psychotic need soon to graduate to Dexter-ical proportions? Frankly, all of these scenarios suck equally. Either someone in this neighborhood is so hungry they are reduced to foraging like a feral dog for food, or someone is so disturbed as to find it amusing to kill defenseless animals that do nothing but spend their birdie lives feeding the hungry. Double Yew Tee Eff. Add to that the realization that someone has obviously been watching our comings and goings to know when the best times would be to get up to no good and it's getting creepier by the minute.

But what really bakes the noodle is wondering how many times last week did I walk right by someone standing in the shadows, still and silent with a freshly strangled chicken in their grip?

Last year Memphis was given (and earned) the lovely distinction of being the Hunger Capital of the United States. One area in particular is also one of the worst food deserts in the nation. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a food desert is a community without access to any grocery stores. In other words, if you can't find it in the gas stations, you don't find it at all. Even if you had enough money to purchase fresh food, it is simply not available unless you have both grocery money and a car to get to the grocery stores in other communities. Things are turning around for the area though with the addition of the South Memphis Farmers Market. This humble beginning was even noted by The White House as a positive step in the right direction for a city long overdue. After our tremendous success and support from the community of Collierville, we were out of the red and into the black. Within one year, the generosity of a few made it possible for us more than double the size of our flock with the goal of making it to South Memphis, possibly making us the only provider of fresh compassionately produced eggs in the entire community.  I had high hopes that it would happen this upcoming season. But now? I can't afford to. I am right back at square one. I do not even know if I will have enough eggs left to take to the Collierville Farmers Market without having to cut families in need off. This is the exact opposite of the entire mission of Cluck-n-Neigh, and I will not do it. The actions of one (or a few) have now directly affected an entire community who could have gotten great benefit from the eggs those now-dead birds would have provided.

So for now, we are on hold until further notice. Most certainly we won't be going to the South Memphis Farmers Market this year, and if we lose any more birds we will not be at the Collierville Farmers Market either.  All we can do is hope that a few folks will help us out when and where they can so that we can make some serious upgrades to security out here. We can use help in any way you feel like giving it, be it financial, volunteer labor or ideas. Our paypal link is on the right hand side of the page for easy donations, and I've got a wish list going if you'd care to take a peek for other stuff that would help us get back on track/continue the journey. Until we upgrade to more security, I have posted a simple sign that reads:

We provide eggs to everyone, even if they cannot pay. Many families in need depend on these eggs. If you take or harm the chickens, many families go hungry.

If you need eggs, mark this page with an “X.” I will put eggs out for you in one of the feed cans, no questions asked. If you have no way to cook them, mark the page with a “B” and I will boil them for you.

Do not hurt my chickens. They've done you no harm.


  1. Whee are you in Covington? I'm in Munford, and my daughter lives near Burlison.

  2. We're almost neighbors, I think. I drive right through Munford on my way to Memphis every week. We're sort of halfway between Covington and the river.

  3. So sad!!! My neighbor, Jennifer Warrilow, just shared your name and website with me as she and I have both been discussing raising a few chickens of our own in our backyards. I'm so excited to glean from your wisdom, but I am sorry to hear of the atrocious acts against your hens (and glad you were not harmed by whomever may have been lurking). If you need any volunteer labor I would certainly be a willing hand! Now I'm going to go peek at your wish list.

  4. How nice of you to say, and thank you for reading! I just logged in today to get started on an update and noticed I had comments, which was a welcome site and a good kick in the tushy to buckle down and get to writing. There's also a good blog from Mother Earth News called "Community Cluckers," where yours truly is happy to be a contributor. Happy hunting for your new brood!