Tragedy at the Harris Farm

Today at work I got a call from Shannon. "This is so sad," she said. I could hear Emma wailing in the background. "An animal got into the chicken coop and ate two of the chickens."

Shannon put Emma on the phone. She couldn't stop crying. I tried to console her. "Sweetie, maybe God knew that animal really needed to eat," I said in a soothing voice, using that special "daddy wisdom" we're given in these moments. "But it didn't eat them," she sobbed, "it just killed them." Um, okay, never mind.

Last spring Shannon had what I thought was a crazy idea: we would get four chickens as a homeschool project. Our neighbors were going to get chickens. It would be fun. I relented. One day we got four fluff balls with legs. They were undeniably cute.

We named them Fluffy, Afro, Nelly and Slowpoke. They lived in our kitchen, then in our basement. They grew and they began to stink up the whole house. So we hired a friend from our church to convert half of our shed into a chicken coop, complete with an outdoor cage section. The chickens grew past the cute fuzzy stage to the awkward chicken-adolescent stage. But somehow our affection for them grew.

We fed them, we gave them water, we cleaned up their poo. Our reward? For three or four months, there was no reward. No eggs. The neighbors had eggs we had none. This was a difficult time. I'd rather not talk about. But, finally, they started laying. We'd get three eggs a day. Not bad, huh? I've done the math and figured out that when you figure out the cost of the coop and the feed each egg cost about $50. Man, those were good eggs.

Then this summer my chicken, Afro, was lost to a fox. He was the slowest of the four and often left out. One night he didn't come back to the coop with the other chickens. Was it despair? Was it rebellion? Was he hanging with the wrong crowd? We'll never know. The next day a fox got him. At least that's what we guess happened. All we found of Afro was a pile of feathers.

We hoped tragedy would only strike once at the Harris Farm, but then came today. I thought losing two chickens was bad. Then tonight, actually just an hour ago, I went out to check on the lone chicken. I opened the door and found her on the ground ripped open. I heard scampering in the outdoor cage section of the coop and ran outside. Sure enough Mr. Racoon was still there. He was trapped.

I was so pickin' mad I started swinging at him with a hammer I had brought to try and patch up the coop. If you're a big racoon fan you should probably skip this part. I was doing my best to kill that little beast. The funny thing is that I actually like racoons. I read that book about the pet racoon when I was a kid. What was it's name? I can't remember, anyway I don't mind racoons but tonight all the fatherly, protective zeal of a chicken farmer came out in pure rage. I swung that hammer like an insane man. The racoon would climb up the side of the coop and I'd knock it down. I'm surprised the neighbors didn't call the cops. It was totally dark and my flashlight bobbed around, spot-lighting the racoon every few seconds and then "Wham!" It finally ran back inside the coop and climbed out the front window before I could get to it. In an instant it was gone.

I went and cleaned up the chicken with a trash bag. Gross. Earlier that night our family had held a chicken memorial service where we talked about what we liked about our chickens. Emma was doing better. Shannon had told her she could get a rabbit. Joshua Quinn was happy because his chicken was still alive. Tomorrow morning I'll have to tell him the sad news.

I know most of you are just laughing. You cold heartless brutes. But all my chicken-keeping friends around the world understand. I know you mourn with me. Goodbye, Slowpoke, Nelly and Fluffy. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the eggs. Rest in peace.


cool story. Haha a chicken memorial! wohoo just like in the movies! hahaha nice one!

Hi Josh, I completely understand what your family is feeling. My siblings and I raised 6 hens a few years back. One day on the way back from church we say furry blobs on the side of the rode near our house. Upon investigating we found out that those "blobs" were our dear Rhode Island Reds!
Those nasty fox's and weasels had gotten them. It was a sad day.
I'm sorry for your little ones.
Hope it all turns out okay.

oh that's a sad story of yours huh...

chicken memorial???oh that's an unusual memorial huh..
i thought memorial is for humans only...
but how kind of yours to have sympathy with chicken...

God bless!!!
you have a nice family....

Aw. I'm sorry. That hurt my feelings. I have an idea of what that feels like. There's nothing like having the chance to go after the culprit face-to-face.

Wow. That is a really interesting story.
I have to say that I cannot relate to the shole chicken aspect of the story, but I have a friend that loves animals, andwell, lets just ssay that I have been there with her when things got "tough."

The year my family moved to Belize on a farm, an ocelot started stealing our chickens (since egg money was our school allowance it was serious). At first the chickens started to disappear one by one during their outings by day. Then one night it crescendoed when the big cat broke through the thatch cover of the coop. Needless to say, the ocelot skin hangs in my brother's room now.

I am so glad God sent my family to Belize!

this story actually reminds me of the love that God has for us...feeding, cleaning, protecting and loving...and wat emma struck a cord...that they weren't eaten but just sad!!!

hi, im zel, from philippines. i was so amazed when i read your book, boy meets girl. its full of advice and god words. i was so happy that it help me to understand my relationship with my husband, we are not yet married, but reading your book, help me to understand our feelings for each other. we are 8yrs now and have 2kids, but we dont get married right now. i learned a lot in your book, it shows me how to respect each other, and also being faithful in GOD. some stories are alike to our relationship. i so thankful that i read some books like this. THANK YOU. regards to your family. I like your stories...

Welcome to the wonderful world of farming.... As long as you have live'll have dead stock!!! Try again! You'll be glad you did. Remember those eggs, fresh and healthy. The chickens eat all the compost, see the sun, and bugs.

hi bro. josh
i've read 2 of your books, i kissed dating goodbye and boy meets girl..God used those books to enlighten my mind as well as my friends' minds.The influence of your book reaches to the ends of the earth i think, and milions of young people are blessed.
you have that writing prowess,bro even a simple tragedy at your farm was penned down skillfully that i was so entertained.
hope to read your latest book
keep writing,as God inspire you


Hi. It's really an awful story huh? But as the bible says, God always want what He's doing in our lives.
But hey, before I forgot, I want to take my hat's off to you! Your books such as I kissed Dating Goodbye, Not Even a Hint and boy meets Girl really helped me to change my outlook with my relationship with my opposite sex. They were used by God's holy hands to teach me with my wrongdoings! Thanks again and May you always receive God's grace and with your family as well.. =)

I totally understand! Chickens are wonderful. In fact, I wish we could have chickens at our place. Our city doesn't allow them, but my husband made me a deal. He said that I need to be a person of integrity and follow the laws. So, if I can change the laws, I can have a brood of chickens.

Its a start of a movement:

Well thats nature, there is always of of Gods wonderful predators needing feeding. Another good book to bless you folks is Bondaries in Dating by Dr Henry Cloud, it really blessed me.

Wow! Well, I can personally relate to your story. Except mine (and my parents) was with rabbits. However that was when I was eight.

I'm fifteen now, and today I had a hard day at work. I have to say that your story made me laugh until I cried! (Not that I can't relate, or that I'm heartless.)

Thanks also for I Kissed Dating Goodbye. It's a book that has given me a foundation. Especially for the questions that many of my unbelieving friends ask about dating. God Bless, Harris family!

That story made my day!
My wife and I roared...been there, done that.

you're family is really interesting..
i never liked chicken,, but i really felt sorry for them..

Yes Josh, I am with you! I remember when we had a nice flock of 25 or so hens that had just started to lay. One night a wild pack of dogs tore the bottom out of the coop and killed most of them. I caught them at it and was like a beserk monster. I went after the two (out of five) that had been left in the pen when their criminal cohorts fled. I had a nice long heavy aluminium flashlight in my hands and I taught those strays a lesson. I finished the matter with a shotgun. The animal control officer said if I could determine who owned the beast he would make them pay $$. Our county had a leash law and these five dogs were in violation. We never caught the rest of the pesky perps. I saw them from time to time slinking around the neighborhood but they always seemed to avoid our farm. I guess they saw the unfortunate members of their gang hanging on the gate.

what can i say... this is so touching... can't help but laugh! thanks for sharing the adventures of Fluffy, Afro, Nelly and Slowpoke. :)

Sounds like you haven't yet been through another sort of chicken tragedy -- the dark side of hen life. Like when the mama hen has post-broody depression and tries to kill her chicks and you find them bloody and gasping and with their internals hanging out and you have to mercy kill the poor things.

Like your kids, I too remember being disgusted when a weasel tore through our quail coop and just bit the heads off of thirty or so of them. Didn't eat them - just killed them.

"all creation groans... awaiting redemption..."

hahahaha ;D
this story totally makes me laugh!

nice writting, Josh!
God bless u abundantly!

I know how you and ur family feel Josh. I just wanted to tell you I have just finished reading Sex is not the problem(lust is) and that its is so inspiring. Thankyou for being able to publish it. I will be passing it onto friends, so that they can read it and i'm sure that they will enjoy it, just as much as I have.
Daria (Central Coast, NSW, Australia)

Now I want chickens. They're ugly and birds scare me with that pecking...but i don't know, i want to try out all the homeschooling projects i can someday.

I want to jump on the bandwagon too and say yeah, your books have inspired me too. I've read them all. It keeps the guys at bay and only the worthwhile one got through! He went and bought I Kissed Dating Goodbye when he heard i like it to see if me or the critics are crazy. We were kind of like David and i forget her name in Boy Meets Girl. So after two years of a roller coaster friendship, we're getting married in September, so thanks!

I had to laugh with you in recalling your protective Dad instincts overriding your love for wild animals. I did the same thing about Feb 2007, except to an opossum who was literally still chewing on our 4-H projects neck! Our daughter was screaming for me to do something, so I ran out the garage grabbing a very dull ax on the way. Tough skin, those opossums. It just wouldn't die. And just day or two before I felt sorry for the poor starving sick-looking thing that had come out of hibernation early because of a winter thaw and fed it the kitchen scraps we usually gave the chickens. I had forgot to send the kids out of view and later was horrified at what I had done. I told our marriage counselor who then passed on the story to her husband (no name for confidentiality). She said he laughed and said their church could use my energy! I visited with our oldest daughter with the chickens, we both loved the church, and switched after 5 years at our old one. The new one believed in unconditional love in marriage for life, our old one accepted excuses for Christians initiating divorce or not attempting reconciliation. The switch saved our marriage! We're having more fun and are a better team than ever before, really. I don't know how we ever got married beside it was God's will to teach us our need for Him to love and respect unconditionally as we promised and He commanded. My husband actually likes church now and the two older have asked Jesus to be their Savior and friend. The 5 year old prays "tight" at meals and our only son gets emotional watching cartoon movies about Jesus, asking for the Jesu one, rather than the talking car show. I mean really broken up, red eyes, silent tears streaming down his face. The 5 year old was pouting once and I said, "You're not happy Anna? Ben said, "Jesu...happy" Am I raising a missionary or future pastor here? Oh, the chicken lived after recovering from a few holes in the neck and a week long infection. Last Christmas Day though, seven got slaughtered during our family gathering. No problem, Aunt Cheryl replaced them from her flock and we ordered 26 more and a goose this spring!! Need some eggs in September? ;) Our 8 year old girl named the goose John, because he was usually splashing around in his little water dish.

Wow I know what thats like. My family use to have a flock of 32 chickens. We are now down to 13 and most of them died of unpleasent causes. I've been there with the whole chicken clean up thing,Nasty! We have also had so many chicken funerals it's not even funny, or maybe it is.The worst thing about coons is they normaly just bite off the head and leave the rest for you to find in the morning.

p.s I do believe the book you are refering to is Rascal by Sterling North.

LOL very nice!
I know how you feel, though, because my family is currently raising sixty chickens that are destined to be butchered (yeah, don't tell your daughter that! :D)

I'm so sorry about your chickens. I know how you feel like. I my sister had a chicken once and it lived in our garage and it roamed in the back yard. It wasn't my chicken but we all grew attach to it. Well, one day when my sisters and I came back home from school and the chicken was gone. Then later we found out they our auntie came over and killed it. She made it for supper and we were all mad and sad.

(another reply to an old post) this made me sad. especially when emma grace was crying about the two chicken being killed and when JQ thought his chicken was still alive, not aware of the bad news. That must have broke his heart. I could imagine. I could relate to this, only mine wasn't with a chicken, it was with a dog we named Freckles (although his name didn't seem to match his black color, not to mention his wolf-like looks that scared those who doesn't know him). He died not because of some wild animal attacking him, but he was poisoned by some heartless brutes (let me borrow that term..hehe) who happened to got inside our compound to steal side mirrors of the cars parked there. really heartless huh. I cried upon learning what happened. My whole family was sad about it too. :( sad story. But I do admire you and Shannon for being very supportive to your kids. You guys are great parents. God bless.

about your book,boy meets girl, l'll say it is one of the best books for christian youth who are ready to date. God richly bless you for the impact you're making

I'm sure glad you all got such joy from this sad story. Quite frankly, I'm surprised at the lack of sensitivity. Oh well, it certainly is a tough world . . .

That was the funniest story to date. I like how you vividly recanted your experience and offered a complete visual. I know how painful it is to lose a family pet. My heart would have gone out to your family at that time. Since it is over two years later, this is hilarious esp. when you mentioned your surprise the neighbors didn't call the cops and "Wham"! God has definitely blessed you with writing ability.

Thank God for a sense of humor. It often helps with coping through tough moments.

God bless you all.

hai Josh,
i'm anna 25 years old from indonesia, i already read your book 'i kissed dating goodbye', and you help me n my boyfriend to re-manage our relationship to be better in JESUS CHRIST, thank you.

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:38-39)


For pest control, use a Henry .22 western style rifle .

Fellow farmer!

who lets their animals get killed like this? if anything happened to any of my animals, things would change immediately, especially if i thought my children's well-being was at stake. when we become caretakers for livestock or pets, we become responsible for their safety. one death may be an accident. after that, it's just plain irresponsibilty.

I'm so, very, very sorry for your losses. We have six hens and a rooster, and we lost a hen quite unexpectedly a year or two ago. She was named Hillary, and she was our favorite. Rest in peace, Fluffy, Afro, Nelly, Slowpoke, and Hillary.

i'm actually really sad....i've always had a huge soft spot for animals. not necessarily supported completely by the Bible, but I believe that God does have a place in the afterlife for his animals, even if it's not heaven---maybe like a paradise of some sort? (at least it's not unsupported though!)

God bless! i'm actually really sad....i've always had a huge soft spot for animals. not necessarily supported completely by the Bible, but I believe that God does have a place in the afterlife for his animals, even if it's not heaven---maybe like a paradise of some sort? (at least it's not unsupported though!)

God bless!

I can't stop crying.

I live on a acreage where I raise rare breeds of animals & birds.I don't have the same preditors as you.But a pack of coyotes have wiped out my ducks & most of my chickens.Lambs were there favorite killing 22 out of 26 lambs.
I have always lived by the rule if you leave me alone I'll leave you alone. Hate killing things even the bad guys.

This is why we brought chickens into our suburban backyard. There is much less danger. Two died from "natural causes" and the last one is still alive and kicking after at least 5 years! :)

This is why we brought chickens into our suburban backyard. There is much less danger. Two died from "natural causes" and the last one is still alive and kicking after at least 5 years! :)

Love the story! Unfortunately I am one of the heartless ones forever condemned who laughed.

BTW, the pet-raccoon story is called, "Rascal," I believe.

Wait, wait... Is anyone else perplexed as to why Afro was the slowest of the checkens and not Slow Poke?? Great story Josh! Sad for your loss.

Sorry for your loss. I understand completely what Molly was going through being a big pet person myself. I love animals - I remember crying myself to sleep at 4 years old after they shot Bambies' mother!
Anyway, although I am a major Cat person, i have had one pet chicken- her name was Janet she was a real doll- we used to pet her like a cat! and those eggs were the healthiest i have ever eaten. but after a while one day when I was at school,my mom set her loose so that she could find a mate and have a bunch of chicks
Let your kids know that there are people out there like me who understand.
sorry for your loss
Grambling LA

The story you mentioned is Little Rascal by Sterling North. Despite the sad demise of your chickens, your children would almost certainly love this book. It's a fabulous read-aloud classic, with nearly as much pathos as your post!

~Fellow Homeschooling Mother of 5

Hi from Singapore! I'm 20 & ur book "boy meets girl" is awesome. Please come to Singapore :)) we love you brother! Although this story is sad.. It's also very well written. The ebb and flow of words washing over the grief seems to be spiritual as well

Sad :(

Do you have new chickens now?

That is exactly what happened to my chickens (excepting the raccoon attack.)
I had seven and they were all murdered.
It was a henhouse massacre.
I recently purchased a beanie-baby TY fox stuffed animal, and now it is hanging "dead" over the door of the empty chicken yard.

On my end of the world, we rear chickens to kill and eat. However ur write up almost made me promise never to eat chicken again (nah!!!). Good one though. God bless.

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