I am very sad to report that my brave little hen Barbara did not make it. She died in my arms this morning about 30 minutes after she received her fresh antibiotic injection. Although I did exactly as instructed by the vet and gave her the usual dosage, I believe that the medicine was too strong for her weak body and it was just too much for her. The older medicine may have been weaker and also less effective at fighting bacterial infections. This fresh stuff was just too strong for her. She may well have died anyway even if she hadn't received the drugs but I still feel very bad. I know I did everything I could to help her and to save her, but I still feel responsible for her death. She would have been 7 years old on April 6th.
Before I buried her, I made sure to show her body to the other two hens so that they would know what had happened to their friend. Just for a few moments, and from a little distance, just in case she had something contagious. I just wanted them to know where she was so that they wouldn't worry and wonder anymore. With the help of my partner Jack, I buried her near the chicken coop where there are other chickens buried from years past. I wrapped her lovingly in a special cloth, a remnant from my old childhood bedspread complete with fringe attached. I laid her softly deep in the hole we dug, gave her some miner's lettuce for the trip, and placed a piece of cardboard on top of her (to protect her) on which I had written my little eulogy for her. "Barbara Chicken, my brave little hen. You were a good layer and you will be missed by me and your sisters. We love you." That's actually only an excerpt from it. We filled in the grave with the soft earth and covered it with a plastic grid material weighted down by heavy rocks and things so that she would be safe from predators. We dug her grave about 2 feet deep, which is deep enough, but still I don't want to risk some predator coming by and disturbing my friend. I placed a couple of lavender flowers on top of her grave.
It has been quite some time since I have had sickness and death occur in my small flock, but I never get used to it. I need to make sure that my other two hens, Lucy and Red, are healthy and stay that way. Barbara's illness may indicate that I need to keep the hen house cleaner or add vitamins to their water or perhaps just keep a closer eye, and hand, on them to check for signs of illness. I don't often hold them and feel their bodies anymore. It's very difficult to tell that a chicken has gotten skinny merely by sight because their fluffy feathers hide their little bodies. You must hold them and feel them and maybe weigh them from time to time. Since they have been grown up hens I haven't done that very much, and they don't encourage me to do it either. They used to fly up on my lap and sit and visit with me when I would go out there and sit in my coop chair. As they got older they stopped wanting to do that as much. I guess I also stopped going out there to just sit and visit as much too.
Lavender on Barbara's grave
I am a very sad Mother Hen today. I have been mourning and crying over my lost friend. I know most folks wouldn't do that, but I can't help it. I never get used to someone being alive and conscious one moment and then still, silent and dead the next. I can't wrap my head around how the life force can just leave us like that. In an instant she is gone. It leaves me feeling scared and makes a hole in my heart.
Goodbye my Barbara Chicken. You were my brave little hen. I love you.
Farmer, gardener, baker, cook, massage therapist, cat & chicken Mom, partner & business owner. Sells earth friendly products for you and your home, including natural soap, candles, body balms, cat toys, cat beds & many other handmade crafts.
This Harvest Basket is a collection from mountain rural life, the everyday wonders of nature and the forest, my vegetable & herb gardens, fruit & nut trees, chickens, kitty cats & my loving partners. My endeavor to live a natural, healthy and peaceful life on my 3 acres in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills also includes home cooking, baking, canning & crafts. Join me on my journey of learning and growing each day. I will share my Mountain Harvest with you.