It was not a surprise. When Cheryl fell ill over 2 weeks ago, we knew it didn't look good. In general, when a chicken gets sick, that is their death sentence. Very few of them recover from illness. We were fully aware of this, and expected her to die. But it's human nature to cling to hope, right? We just never know how things might turn out. We hoped for the best, but had realistic expectations.
So why am I still so upset about the death of a chicken? Chickens are not cute, they are not cuddly, they are not particularly endearing creatures. And if I'm being honest, I don't have a real connection with most of our chickens. I enjoy caring for them, but most are nameless birds wandering around in my backyard. Cheryl, though.... she was different. Her outgoing and friendly personality made her a pleasure to be around. I spent many hours this summer working in the garden or yard, with her at my heels. She kept me company, following me around, waiting for me to pet her or dig up a worm for her to eat. Somehow, she gradually became elevated from "farm animal" status to "pet" status.
Cheryl was sick for a little over 2 weeks. During that time, we kept her in the house so I could care for her. She never laid an egg during that time, but did pass the weird looking thing called a "lash", as seen in my previous post. A few days ago, we started putting her outside during the day since the weather was so nice. Sunday night she didn't come to the door be brought inside. Today my husband found her dead in the barn. I think she basically starved to death - I could hardly get her to eat anything these last 2 weeks. Poor thing.
I wish I knew what happened to her and if there was anything I could have done to help her. As much as we loved her, my husband and I had decided long ago that if any of our chickens fell ill, we would not spend the money to take them to a vet. It's simply not in the budget. We did out best to care for her and make her comfortable, so that has to be enough.
The only upside to this whole situation is that now we don't have to agonize over the decision to butcher her someday. As laying hens approach 2-3 years old, they stop laying regularly and it becomes more expensive to feed them than what they are worth in eggs. There is no free lunch on the farm - animals need to earn their keep. Our chickens have to lay enough eggs for us to sell, so in essence they pay for their own food. Next fall, we most likely have to butcher our 2 and half year old hens. I was already dreading having to make the decision whether or not to spare Cheryl. Now I don't have to decide.
I wanted to share this photo of her I took this summer. It's she stunningly beautiful?!? Oh Cheryl, you will be missed. The farm is not the same without you. I'm thankful we were chosen to care for you during your short time on this earth. I hope you enjoyed your days at Third Day Farms.