Responsibility: A Hard Week At The G Household For Critters.
I got home this morning, and checked on the chickens. Hm. Their water pan was bone dry. NOT good, when the temps get up to over 100. I had told my younger daughter yesterday to feed and water the chickens. There was some feed scattered on the floor of the chicken yard, that I certainly hadn't put there. I pour their lay pellets into the heavy flexible bowl made of recycled tire, so that I can move them, when I move the portable pen. Two chickens were in the small yard. The other two were in the hen house. I pulled the water pan and the feed bowl out, and moved the portable pen. Immediately, I saw the corpses of two dead hens left behind. Lulu, the big red, and Yolky, the Araucana, had succumbed to the heat and lack of water. They were our two biggest and oldest chickens. The other two hens ran out of the pen, but jumped right back in again when I put water in the pan. I should have checked on them before I went to work, but I had told the 10 year-old to check on them.
I went to the recently re-filled unused cat grave, and scooped it back out again. I put the chickens into it, and I covered them with the dirt, and tamped it down. The shallow grave gave with the compression of the bodies. I was wistful about the wasted protein, but without knowing when the chickens died, it would be a questionable practice to harvest the meat, even without the issue of them being named critters.
I went back to the chicken coop, giving up a muttered prayer that the pan would be empty. It had some rust all over the bottom of it, and it was faintly possible that there was a rusted-out leak that had emptied the pan last night. That would excuse the lack of water. Maybe the pan had been filled. I found it quite full, with two younger chickens still greedily filling their beaks and tipping their heads back. No. The pan still held.
I thought about fibbing to the girls. It's a hard thing, discovering that your negligence caused a death. I remember crying as a boy when I'd killed a goldfish that way.
Oh yeah-- goldfish. Alice, our 7 year-old goldfish, passed away this week. But she was pretty old.
The cat is still on the mend. Not where he needs to be. I probably could have done more to keep him healthy. I need to be more often checking his litter box to see that he isn't going to up and die from kidney problems. Stupid cat.
I went in the house, woke up the girls, and told them. It turns out that my wife had told the near-14-year-old to feed and water the chickens, too. Both girls said that they had fed the chickens, but forget to check the water. The hose doesn't quite stretch, so it's a chore to fill the pan, where the chicken coop is now. They both gathered the truth: they had each neglected the poultry, causing us to lose our two best layers.
This time, the younger daughter took it better. The elder daughter cried a bit. I almost regret telling them. But responsibility isn't just a word. It's a reality that means that if you don't do the job, it doesn't get done. There are consequences for failing in your responsibilities. In this case, neither are being punished, except with the knowledge of their failure to complete their duties. I'm disappointed, but not distraught. This is the opportunity for an incredibly valuable lesson in both their lives. I had just last night congratulated the elder daughter on her commendation from the school district for her scores on the state math exam. But I should be more proud of her if she uses this experience to better herself.