The first very hot day here always poses a bit of a danger for the older chooks we have and Purple Comb one of our much loved girls had to be euthanized today.
Yesterday the girls were perfectly fine though it was a hot day – I let them out around 10am and all 5 of them spent the day happily roaming the new grassy areas they had access to. Like the princesses they are, they received their blueberry treats gracefully. When a thunderstorm blew in The Other Half herded them all back into their enclosure.
First thing this morning when I took the girls their ice water she was hiding in their special nest spot – which apparently we have not managed to stop them getting into. I figured she was broody and there was probably eggs there, so I left her be. Broodies know when they need to get off the nest to eat, drink and poop.
Around 3pm I noticed Purple Comb standing at the back of the enclosure, near the special nest spot. I’ll take her some blueberries, the other girls had already had theirs. As I got closer I could see she did not look like a well chook, and when I gave her the blueberry she could not manage to eat it, though she did try. Then she pooped and I will not tell you more about that, but I knew from what I saw, this was not going to be a good outcome even if we did try the spa treatment.
Owning chooks is a big responsibility sometimes, and days where you have to make that big end of life decision are the worst days. When I know for sure it is time I get the chook to the vet as quick as possible.
The girls will usually hide their illness as long as they can, then they will tell you very clearly in various ways, how they are standing, the fact that they do not move away when you approach, not wanting their favourite treats and finally that they do not even try to run off when you go to pick them up. You can rarely pick up a healthy chook, they’ll be gone before you can blink. If we want to dose them with medicine or dust them with poultry dust we have to take them off the roost at night.
So into the house I went, collected a pet carrier, collected her and put her in it, then I took her inside to sit in the cool airconditioning while I called the vet and told them I was on my way.
The Other Half is usually the person who holds the chook but he was at work, so I had to do it today. Oh, I could have easily just handed the carrier to the vets and let them do the needful, but I want my girls to have someone in the room they know. She is now buried in the garden just under one of her favourite dust baths, near Red Comb.
The two remaining English Game Hens together after Red Comb went to Rainbow Bridge. Purple Comb is on the left. How can I tell, you ask? I just can. Dark Comb is on the right. Her comb used to be darker but over time it has become more purple and you really could have got confused if you did not know them like I do. :) It is more about the feathers on their breast plate and how they sit.
On Sunday after we completed the chicken fence, I let the girls out to free range. Purple Comb found a HUGE spider by the fence, she killed it quickly and then was trying to eat it while all the other girls tried to steal it. She clucked joyously as she did it and it took her a good 5 minutes to eat. Once she finished eating it, she trumpeted the story of how delicious it was to the other girls, who were not at all impressed by her story. That will be my strongest memory of her, though there are so many other great memories.
As I always post when this happens – there are 4 other chickens in the yard for whom life continues. They live minute by minute, sucking the most joy out of each and every moment, whether it is a dirt bath, finding a bug, eating a treat from the humans.. all we can do is love them while they’re here, protect them the best we can from predators, know when it is time to let them go, and remember them when they are gone.
May there be as many blueberries as you can eat at the Rainbow Bridge where you now rejoin your beloved sister Red Comb – she has been waiting for you! Plus White Sussex, Ancona, Mary, Twiggy and Big Kitty. You will be greatly missed here.