Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sad Day for Chickens and Mother Hen

Miner's Lettuce ~growing wild in the shady places

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.

Mother Hen Jen

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket


Hardware Bob said...

A beautiful tribute for Barbara, she knows how much you cared.I grieve with you today.

Everything in this life has a reason and purpose, you did what your knowledge, experience, and guides told you to do. You are a wonderful, caring, and loving Mother Hen. She was lucky to have you as her Mom.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Barbara chicken, Jen - I know how worried you were and how much you were doing to try to help her. She was a very fortunate hen to be a part of your flock and family. I know you will miss her terribly and I wish you comfort and peace. -danni

Farmgirl_dk: said...

p.s. After seeing your close-up of the miner's lettuce, I've decided that I've not seen it before and I don't think it grows around here. It's very pretty, though, and I'm glad you gave some to Barbara for her trip.

Farmer Jen said...

Thank you for grieving with me. Thank you for your love and support. I don't feel like I am a very good Mom. I feel like I failed her, but I will try to accept that I am not always in control of everything.

Thank you for your support and nurturing and for wishing me comfort and peace. I need those things.

I am glad I gave some Miner's Lettuce to Barbara for her trip too. I looked up Miner's Lettuce to get more info about it and have added a link under the photo of it on this post, and also included the link again here: Miner's Lettuce Pretty interesting, but not all that exciting.

Twinville said...

Oh no....my tears were flowing. I am so sorry for sweet Barbara's loss. What a moving funeral dedication you gave to her. It touched my heart.

I know I would be just as distraught over any of my chickens or other critters dying, too.

Barbara lived a very long life for a chicken, so you can't be hard on yourself. You gave her a very good life. What a blessed little chicken she was...and you, too for having her in your life.

Sue Neitzel said...

Hi Jen, thanks for visiting! So sorry to hear about your loss, always hard to lose apart of the family. I can remember the first time we lost a farm animal, a duck that thought I was mom, she would follow me around, loved when the garden got tilled, free worms! Animals are special and bring us joy, you did all you could. Blessings!

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Twinville,
Thank you for visiting and for your very kind and comforting words. I really appreciate that. You touched my heart too.

Hi Sue,
Yes, all my animals are part of my family. I love them all and they do bring me joy. Thank you for your sympathetic words. It's nice to hear from others who understand.

CeeCee said...

I wandered over here from Farmgirl's blog. I'm sorry to hear about your hen. Buff Orps are my favorite too. I have two right now. Sunny is my joy. She'll leave the group to 'visit' with me. She proudly jumps up on my lap and shares the chicken poo she has stuck to her feet with my jeans. ;) She loves being petted too.
I wish you peace in your heart. You did all that you could for her.