last updated 5.3.16
Hatched: 18th November 2010
Died: 9th December 2012
Weight: 2.66 kg
Total number of eggs: 220
Biggest egg: 74 g
Smallest egg: 48 g
Average weight: 63.91 g
Katie was one of three Barnevelder girls from Poppy’s Horde.
Katie wasn’t a pretty girl. Her shape was wrong – very slim-line, and very tightly feathered. Zsa Zsa and Maggie were pretty, curvaceous, fluffy-petticoated girls, but Katie looked like she could be a Game Fowl of some sort. (Other than her markings, which were correct.) But she was the friendliest of the three, so we decided that she would be one of the girls we sold. (Ha!)
But there was a problem. We were walking back past the orchard, having just bopped the Horde boys, when we heard a stramge sound from the Combine … crowing. Not especially loud, or terribly good. But definitely an attempt at crowing. Which was a bit odd, seeing as how we’d just chopped the heads off all the boys. We went to check, and sure enough, it was Katie.
Somehow, I don’t think we would have much luck selling a homely hen who also happened to think she was a boy … so we decided to keep her. Claire had gotten us used to strangled crowing, so we figured another hen with Gender Identification Issues wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
The other oddity about Katie was her eyelids. The were distinctly droopy. Think Forest Whitaker. It was a bit alarming at first, and they varied as to how droopy they were at any particular time, but it didn’t seem to be related to anything in particular. It was just … Katie.
One other oddity with Katie-po was how she behaved when you picked her up. She would stretch her legs out firmly behind her, a bit as though she was being Superman. Which meant that putting her down again took a bit of manuvering, as her feet wouldn’t be underneath her.
She was definitely a unique character.
Katie really surprised us. She was never much of a one for doing dippies (unlike Zsa Zsa and Maggie), so her first egg came without us even realising she was ready to lay. She was the first of the Horde to do so, and we actually assumed it must be a Zsa Zsa egg. But then I caught Katie in the nest, and reassigned the egg to it’s correct cloaca – a 50g, speckled, dark brown egg. Lovely!
And in her pullet year, shewas a really good layer. Her eggs quite quickly climbed in weight, until she was routinely laying over 60g. (Given that she was such a slightly-built girl, this was pretty impressive.) She was the first back into lay after her moult, and seemed to be laying well. But without us noticing, she was laying less and less often, and only managed 68 eggs in her second year. (She’d laid more than twice that many – 152 – in her first seven months of laying.) In retrospect, we probably should have paid that fact more attention.
We still don’t know what killed Katie. She’d always seemed full of life and vigour. But on November 25th, she collapsed. She actually came across to me first, so I think she knew she was in trouble and was asking for help. We did what we could – put her in the shade, crop-tubed some water and electrolyte into her, and some crushed-up antibiotic from Lily. She was mouth-breathing, and looked dreadful. But very gradually, over the course of the day, she did come right again. Not completely – she was still a bit tentative in her movements for a day or so. But after talking to Pauline, it seemed like it was probably some sort of infection, and that the antiobiotics had done enough to knock it back. So we got some more antibiotics for her, and gave her a week of meds to try and make sure.
And then, a fortnight later, whatever it was came back. And how. She was absolutely fine in the morning – perky, hungry, energetic. Katie. And then we found her, two hours leter, collapsed under the apple tree. And this time we didn’t even manage to get any sort of treatment to her – she died in my arms before Stewart could even get to the house.
It was a horrible shock. Whatever it was that killed her was absolutely devastating. We still don’t know what it was, and go through phases of being horribly paranoid about the girls, if someone seems even slightly off colour. But in many ways that suddenness was a blessing – no long, lingering, painful slide towards death. Just … gone. And over.
We buried her under a dwarf Stella cherry tree in the orchard, next to Sasha. Our funny little Katie-po, with her superman legs and her droopy eyelids. We miss her.