April 8, 2015 § Leave a comment
We lost Ella this morning. She died peacefully in her sleep, of old age. (Over eight years old, and very arthritic and tottery.)
She’d had a hard time through the previous winter – she no longer dust-bathed very well, so feather lice were a regular problem for her. We regularly used an old shaving brush and what always seemed like a pound of Diatomaceous Earth to dust her – turing her a very interesting grey colour, and doing something to deal with the lice. But it was an ongoing battle, and her moults were taking longer and longer, and she was spending more and more time just sitting in a sunny spot, not doing very much. (Until you appeared with food, in which case she became considerably more energetic.) And just the day before she died, we’d had a conversation about not making the poor old girl go through another winter. But Ella, as always, did things her way.
We were in bed still that morning when we heard a burst of what sounded like flapping. There was no accompanying squawking or cackling, so we didn’t worry about it. But when I went down to let everyone out of their houses, I found Ella dead in the Dower House. She was still warm, so we’re pretty sure what we heard were the muscle contractions that so often accompany a chook’s death.
We’ve buried Ella under a black mulberry tree in the paddock, just down from Holly. She had a good life, and a good death. I’m glad she died this way – at home, of old age, and without any illness or drama beforehand. Just popped her clogs on a sunny autumn morning. What better end could we ask for?
January 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
She’d recovered since her prolapse in August – laid 66 eggs, seemingly with no difficulty. But she didn’t ever get back to her old self, with some sort of neurological damage meaning that her bum did genuinely drag on the ground. We gave her antibiotics and metacam, but it made no difference. We had started asking each other whether we were doing the right thing keeping her going, but she didn’t seem to be in any pain, and was still enjoying life. We’d joked about making her some sort of sling, or a trolley of some kind. But she preempted us.
She’d gone in to lay her egg this morning, and when I went out to check on them all I saw her standing at the drinker. It took me a moment to realise that she was standing partly under the drinker. And it was another huge prolapse – every bit as bad as the first, even though it could only have happened within the last half hour or so at most.
We brought her in and washed her as best we could to get rid of the worst of the straw and dirt, and took her in to the vets. But from the moment we saw what had happened, I think we both knew that this needed to be the end. We couldn’t put her through all that again, just to go back to dragging herself around. Susan was, I think, quite relieved that we had already reached that decision. So we had her put to sleep.
We brought her home and buried her in the far end of the paddock, under a white mulberry sapling. Dear Holly. She was a thoroughly unique character, and we will miss her.
November 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
We’ve been waiting for Poppy to go broody again, ever since she hatched out her Poppettes last year. But it’s starting to look as if she might have (finally, and justifiably) decided that this whole laying and brooding malarkey is something she doesn’t need to do any more. You can’t blame her – over the course of her seven years, she has hatched and raised 45 chicks in six clutches. Pretty impressive! So while we really hope she does come back into lay for at least a few more precious eggs, she has well and truly earned her retirement. But … that leaves us without our super-reliable broody.
Enter Jeannie, a.k.a. The-Apple-Who-Falleth-Not-Far-From-The-Tree.
We did umm and ahh a bit about letting Jeannie brood. Being the only daughter from Poppy, she is very precious. And brooding does take it out of a hen. (Plus we’re still a bit gun-shy after Mirri’s death.) But then again, Poppy herself started brooding at almost exactly the same as Jeannie is now. And the weather should be a lot kinder than it was for Poppy’s first go.
Anyhow, we installed Jeannie in the broody coop a week ago, to be absolutely certain she was going to stay fixed. The signs are very good so far. We got eggs from Fionna Appleton again – half a dozen Rhode Island Red and half a dozen Barred Rock, of which we picked the best looking four from each – and four Charlotte x Patrick eggs (picking the best 4 from a possible 8) for a total of a dozen to incubate. We put them under her on Thursday afternoon (19/11/14), and will do a first candling next week.