Thursday, May 21, 2009
A loss on the farm
So, that picture that I posted yesterday about my dust bathing chickens looking dead isn't very funny anymore.
After 14 months of joyful, humorous chicken ownership, I have lost one of my girls. Yesterday morning she was fine, yesterday evening she was dead.
I found Coral, one of my Rhode Island Reds, slumped on the ground in the corner of the chicken run when I went to let the chickens out to free range. There was no sign of trauma, no previous illness, it wasn't a hot day, and she had hopped up to the outside roost to happily snag her morning treat from my fingers just a few hours earlier...I have no idea what happened. Her body was still warm when I found her.
It is one of those unfortunate facts of life that things die, but I worry that I missed something, overlooked some sign that I could have acted on. My biggest fear is that she suffered in some way.
I sent an email out to my local, online chicken support group, PDX Backyard Chickens. My friends, Kao and Tonya, are two of the moderators of this group and they have an incredible wealth of chicken-related knowledge that they freely share to any and all who request it. Kao responded in this way to my query on whether anyone else had experienced a sudden, inexplicable death among their chickens:
"We have had a few Production Reds do the exact same thing. Head out, tail up and eating cheerios from our fingers and then two hours later we find them looking like they died in mid stride. Full crop, no sign of damage or anything else. They are great personality birds which have been very missed. Our personal theory is that they are bred for egg production over longevity. We do have a Rhode Island Red that has exceeded the 2 year mark and seems fine just to mess with our theory.
Sorry for the loss."
I may not ever know why my hen died. This morning, I was very nervous going into the coop, fearful that maybe some illness was going to run rampant now in my flock and another of my girls would be gone. But everyone is spunky and fine. Pretty much like yesterday.
At dusk last night, we found ourselves searching our property for an appropriate animal burying place. Every farm with animals needs one of these. We found ours right at the base of this old tree stump: