The Circle of Life on a Homestead (or, How Keeping Bald Eagles Away From the Hens is Just Plain Impossible)

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Rest in peace, Mrs. Peeps.

A little while ago, our 11-year-old son, Troy, ran into the house, hysterical. When I asked him what was wrong, he could hardly talk, he was so worked up. I hugged him and tried to soothe him, and when he finally calmed down enough to be intelligible, he told me that Mrs. Peeps was gone. All that was left was a big pile of her white feathers.

A bit of back-story on Mrs. Peeps… She was Troy’s chicken. He hand-picked her from the farmers’ co-op in town when she was just a tiny chick. She was our only White Leghorn and was the smallest of all of our hens. She wasn’t an outcast, per se, but she didn’t exactly fit in with the other, more colorful chickens. But she was Troy’s, and he loved that little chicken.

I went back outside with Troy to see if I might be able to find her in a blackberry or thimbleberry bush, or even in a tree, but, alas, no such luck. Mrs. Peeps was gone.

I had noticed that 2 or 3 Bald Eagles were coming around a lot lately. Where we live, Bald Eagles are an everyday occurrence. National bird or not, they can be a nuisance when they pick off chickens, pet rabbits, even dogs and cats.

What to do? I tried to explain to Troy that the eagles were trying to feed their families, and to them, Mrs. Peeps was a pretty nice meal, not his pet. He went on a tirade about how he hated eagles and how he wanted to get Dad’s shotgun and “take those stupid eagles out!” *sigh* I then had to explain that Bald Eagles are our national bird and that it’s illegal to kill them – not the easiest thing to try to convey to an angry, irrational 11-year-old boy.

It’s such a hard lesson for kids to learn, losing a pet. It’s one of those things that is inevitable if you have a pet, but it just doesn’t seem quite right, especially for children. Troy was upset most of the day.

Later that evening, he came to me and said, “Mom, I hope Mrs. Peeps didn’t suffer. I hope the eagles ate her quickly. Do you think Dad will let us let the chickens out of the pen so they can try to hide in the bushes if the eagles come back?” I think he gets it now, and, yes, I think Dad will be okay with letting the chickens roam in the bushes.

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