I have no idea how old our chickens were as we inherited them from a friend, but I think they were getting on in years. Chickens only having a laying period of about two years, and one of mine called Popcorn (yes, we gave them names!) hasn’t laid an egg for months so I guess she was past her “used by” date.
The other one, Henny Penny, gave us an egg every day without fail.
However, I noticed one day that Henny Penny was limping quite badly on one of her legs, and if she attempted to put it to the floor, she fell over. Her wings were outstretched and her mouth was open as if she couldn’t get enough air; her breathing was quite rapid.
When I picked her up to investigate, I felt a large lump on the side of her chest, about the size of a golf ball.
Needless to say, I was worried so I took her over to my neighbour to check her out (he used to be a farmer), and on checking her, he said it was probably a cancerous growth. He offered to put her out of her misery and I was horrified – I didn’t expect that. I told him I would think about it and see how she went that day.
She really didn’t look well, and I had noticed a few days previous that Popcorn had started to peck at Henny; there were a lot of feathers missing around her head area. Apparently, this is what chickens do – if there is a weak or sick chicken in their midst, they peck at the poor bird, sometimes until it dies, so with this in mind, I separated them to keep Henny from being pecked to death.
However, during the course of the day, she got worse and I realized that I was facing the inevitable.
But I also knew I had to make another decision – whether to keep Popcorn or not. She hadn’t laid an egg for months and we were feeding her for nothing. Also, because of her considerable age, I knew she wouldn’t be with us much longer anyway. I knew what I had to do, but I had to put my emotions to one side otherwise I wouldn’t be able to carry it through.
It seems cold but farmers don’t treat their livestock as pets – they are livestock, period. I have to harden up!
Chickens are funny little creatures – they don’t accept new chicks into the coup, and we wanted to get some new ones eventually. Popcorn would have attacked any new chicks we introduced into the chicken coup and probably killed them.
So when our next door neighbour came over to take Henny, we told him to take Popcorn too; he said we were doing the right thing and took them both back to his place to do the dirty deed. He is a farmer and is used to doing things like that. I’m glad he was there to help us out, because neither I nor my husband could have done it.
My heart lurched as I saw them go, and even our dog was stressed – she didn’t like it any more than we did! My instinct was to run and take them from my neighbour, and I had to fight that feeling, it was very strong. But common sense took over and I walked away heavy hearted.
Someone said to me later, “But they’re only chickens”. I felt hurt. ONLY chickens? They lived and breathed, and were part of our brood. We were as passionate about them as we are about our dogs. However, I was shocked by my own feelings at losing them;I wouldn’t have thought I could feel so sad at losing plain old farmyard chickens, but it seems I’m wrong – even they have that “pet power”!