Losing a Chicken

We lost one of our chickens on Tuesday. I noticed she was looking peaky on Saturday when I went to visit them, picked her up and felt how weak and lightweight she was and immediately panicked. I didn’t know what to do, so I just put some water and food near her. She pecked at the food a little and drank some water. Lady got home from her conference a few hours later, so we took the chicken home with us from the coop, cleaned her up as best we could, and settled her amongst some towels in the bath tube.

I know it’s stressful to take a chicken away from their home and fellow ladies, but I was much more concerned about her dying overnight and the other chickens pecking at her corpse. Or worse – pecking her to death before she was even gone. I’ve read too many chicken horror stories about chickens smearing themselves in other chickens’ blood like war paint and developing a taste for their brethren. So we took the risk of bringing her home instead.

She was droopy, weak, listless, and emaciated. Her comb was pale but her eyes were still bright. She stopped eating and drinking entirely after she arrived home, but Lady managed to sneak some water into her via a needleless syringe. The next day we acquired a rubber tube and a larger syringe and Lady managed to get some liquid food down her, as well as some electrolytes.

But it was too little, too late. She passed away Tuesday morning. I can only hope we saved her some trauma by bringing her in, but I know she would have preferred to be with her flock. Still, there was no way she would’ve made it inside the coop each night, so at least she was sheltered and inside instead of outdoors alone.

I’m surprised by how much losing this chicken has hurt us both. It’s just a chicken – right? But she was ours and she had at least another year in her and it simply wasn’t her time. We failed in our one duty – to protect her. I feel guilty because I handed over chicken-caring duty last week so I could get more time in writing. I think, maybe if I had been there Friday, noticed her then. But I also know I don’t have the bird training that Lady has and I wouldn’t have been able to do anything but fret.

We suspect it was heat stress, although I’m still not comfortable with that diagnosis. But she didn’t have a stuck egg and there were no other obvious wounds or signs of infection. It hasn’t been as hot as it used to be, but it’s been muggy and we’ve taken less care with bringing them ice every day. Plus, her breed has thicker feathers, meatier breasts, and shorter combs than our other chickens, all of which make it more difficult for them to cool off.

At least she was loved and respected, had a flock of her own, and a safe place to roam. Going to miss you, Condor.

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6 Comments

Filed under backyard homesteading, chickens

6 responses to “Losing a Chicken

  1. Aww, I am so sorry! You can’t blame yourself, though. We all take time away sometimes. No matter how hard we try, there’s no way to always be there for anyone–human or animal.

  2. I’m sorry. Sometimes things just happen so fast. My cat almost died last year. I still have a hard time really talking about it.

    • Oh god, I’m so terrified of anything happening to our cats. I once helped a friend nurse her kitty-AIDS positive cat while he died and it was just awful. I’m glad your kitty survived, but that really can shake a person up. ❤

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