Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The End of an Era

On October 13th, 2004, I got a call from my mail carrier,
"They're here!"
My first ever batch of chicks was at the post office, cheeping up a storm because they were tired and hungry and cold.

My last hen from that first batch of chickens died on Sunday.  
If she had lived to see October 10th, she would have been 11 years old!

People always ask me, "How long to chickens live?"
I always say that I don't know, but that "I have one that is 10 years old".

Penny was an extra chicken that I did not order.
She was added "for warmth" (chicks need to be kept at 95* until their first feathers come in--more chicks, more warmth).  
That is chicken hatchery speak for "We're dumping a rooster chick on you because that's one less chick we have to kill because no one wants roosters."
Good for them, not so good for me.
I asked them to mark the head of the little roo with a marker so I knew who NOT to get attached to.

As the weeks went by, I noticed my little roo was not acting or looking like a rooster at all.
When the 12th week passed and there was nary a crow out of the wee bird, I decided that my little chick that was added for warmth was actually a little hen.
Better yet, she was an Easter Egger chicken.
Her eggs would be pink, green or blue.
They ended up being pinkish brown.
She laid dozens and dozens of eggs in her lifetime---right up until last year.

She was always a bit skittish, never one to climb in my lap like some of my other chickens.
She was also a loner.  For reasons unknown to me, she was never pals with any of the other chickens.  I worried about her the first year.  Worried that her being alone all the time when she free-ranged would make her more susceptible to daytime predators.
Nope, she outlived all her sisters.

In the last couple weeks, she began showing real signs of failing.
Walking very slowly, standing in one place for long lengths of time, eating with less vigor, drinking little.  
Part of me hoped it was the heat.  I provided her with cold water several times a day and put her in shady places when I'd find her standing in the sun.
She was living life in slow motion.  
I told a friend that it was she was like a helium balloon that was slowly losing air and drifting toward the ground.
Several days I thought, "Today is the day", and then she'd rally.

A couple people asked me why I didn't put her out of her misery.

The short answer is that it didn't appear that she was suffering
 and 
she was pretty darn afraid of me.
I didn't want to terrify her by picking her up, only to then wring her neck.

I let nature take its course and the course was completed on Sunday while I was at church.

Eric went out with me to check on her.
He then dug a hole while I cried. 
I finally held her, stroked her feathers.
The first and last time I would ever do it.