Myrtle was the first chicken I lost. I felt helpless as the vet couldn’t diagnose. She couldn’t breathe and I read every book I could, but everything led to the same diagnosis, which I now know is not always right. It was supposed to signify gape worm, but I honestly now believe it was sadly an egg issue. Being just six months, her system must have developed wrongly and without surgery or an implant to stop eggs, it was a lost cause.
Since then I have managed to heal many of my birds and realized too, that sometimes there is nothing you can do, except know that they have had love, freedom and a good life. When she passed I went into a sort of shock and cried most of the day, blubbing into my hanky at every mention of chickens. I took it personally and even writing this I feel emotional. She led me to learn as much as I could about poultry welfare and how I had to be pragmatic sometimes and know I am not God. I watch for signs and act as quickly as I can and often minor injuries and illnesses resolve quickly.
We buried Ronnie today, our six year old gentle rooster, whome we had adopted. He came to us with bad scaly mite legs, sore and crusty and eventually had to have a toe amputated. He was always a little wobbly afterwards and I built ramps to the perch as he could no longer jump. The excitement he expressed on the day he managed to perch on his own, without my help, was tangible. He was after all supposed to be guardian. When we adopted noisy Bantham Billy, Ronnie immediately let him act as his second in command, as Billy could crow for England and would chase any hen late for bed. Later Napoleon joined the flock and also settled in with the boys. He had been bullied and was very content to join the others without fighting for domination. Ronnie passed quietly. Likely a stroke or heart failure and in his favorite spot in the coop.
And so the flock has ticked along, many have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, many are now aging gracefully and reaching six or seven years old. New relationships have formed as old partners pass, and young birds are learning the pecking order and developing the little characters that I love so much. With a steady observation and adapting where the birds live, feed and sleep we finally have a very peaceful garden with little happy groupings. There is no bullying, no little lonely souls and everyone looks out for one another. The coops are not closed, but guarded by the geese and Bovril, our guinea who, now Mr Chicken and Ronnie have gone, has upped his game guarding and calling the signal to be watchful.
I don’t worry now. I know they know how to manage their lives. I simply keep a watchful eye on them. They have a routine that doesn’t need me, but I am still greeted joyfully when I potter around the garden. Pea, our little tiny hen, likes to be carried about, yucked under my arm; Bonnie goose loves a hug, Nugget, our greedy cous-nous loves cuddles and little Willow, another cous-nous, when she feels unwell, likes to sleep on my lap.
I noticed little Doobie chicken, at six years old, was a little unsteady this week, but still pottering about. She is the last hen of my 2018 flock and aging gracefully. They have such short lives relative to ours, so I hope that in 2023 there is far more progress in animal welfare ….they deserve better. These guys helped me find my vocation. They helped my journey towards being a vegetarian and they made me realize that it is only communication, a language barrier, that makes us different. Happy days, happy souls ♡