Well, I’m down to two chickens.
Wednesday evening, The Baroness looked a little strange, but not terribly strange, so I didn’t think too much of it. Thursday when I went out before work to see what the chickens were up to, she was definitely off. She was kind of squatty, and not moving around much, and her tail was droopy. I let her (and her amigas) out of the coop to see if she perked up in the yard. She hopped out, but then it was even more clear that something was not right. I worried that she might be egg bound, but given that it was 7 in the morning when I was on my way to work, it did not seem prudent to experiment with home remedies. Especially since I wasn’t sure that was the problem. After calling a coworker for advice, I decide to take her to the vet. Luckily, I was able to find a vet in Petaluma that sees chickens. Rather than wait for them to open and call, I loaded The Baroness up in a cardboard cat-carrier box, and headed out to be there when the doors opened.
When I went to pick her up and put her into the box, I could tell her tummy was hugely swollen. She was so fat it was a squeeze to get her in the box.
She rode happily in the car, and when I got to the veterinary office, they let me leave her there since the doctor was not yet in, and said they’d call with news.
He called me a few hours later, asked a few basic questions, and said that it was either an egg situation or cancer. He told me that the fancy, organic food I’ve been feeding them was too low in calcium (THEN WHY AM I BUYING THE FANCY FOOD!?), and that could definitely lead to egg problems. Before he could figure anything out, he would need to drain the fluid from her belly, because it was too swollen to tell what was going on. I okayed the chicken draining, and an hour or so later, he called back.
They had drained three pints of fluid from her little chicken body, and once that was out, he was able to determine that it was chicken cancer. I was surprised, because her downfall had come very quickly. He said that’s how these things work. He claimed that she wasn’t in any discomfort, and she’d probably live for another month or so, at which time it would be best to have her euthanized.
So, after work, I went and picked her up. When I pulled her out of the box she was noticeably smaller after fluid removal.
She seemed okay that night, and hopped into the coop with the others.
Friday morning, she came out of the coop as normal, but she just sat down once she got out there. I brought her some corn tortillas (a favorite) and patted her and made sure she had food and water close by in case she didn’t feel like moving around.
Then I went to work, and to riding. When I came home, I went straight out to check on her, and found her little dead self pretty much where she had been sitting that morning.
The other chickens, bitches that they are, were totally ignoring the fact that their sister was dead in the middle of the run.
Several factors made this situation easier than dealing with the Dead Liesel situation:
1. It wasn’t Liesel
2. While I wasn’t expecting her to die that day, I had certainly been warned it was going to happen.
3. It wasn’t 7 in the morning on a work day.
4. I was already in riding clothes, which are also suitable for grave-digging.
So, I got my shovel and my work gloves and started digging a grave.
That was about mid-dig. The Baroness was a BIG bird.
Then with some courage and a shovel, I scooped up The Baroness and brought her to her final resting place. I threw some calendula blooms in with her, then filled in the hole, stomped it down (sorry, chicken!), covered the area with two stepping stones, picked her a few flowers, and googled “funeral prayer” on my phone for, you know, her service.
I figured that since Liesel had to go in the trash can, The Baroness would have a proper funeral that would count for both of them.
The Baroness, in more alive times.
She had a pretty interesting life, for a chicken. The Baroness was hatched in a incubator in an elementary school classroom, along with a handful of sister-chickens. When they became too much for a classroom, they were adopted by my friends and they lived happily for several years until a raccoon finally figured out how to get into the coop, and one by one the chickens were killed until only The Baroness remained.
At that point, my friend brought her to work in a taped-up copier paper box, and told me that she needed refuge. She had a rough start at my house, being bullied by the others and forced to sleep in the greenhouse at night, but eventually they worked it out.
The Baroness loved food, busting out of the door of the chicken run, frolicking, running wildly towards anyone who appeared to be offering food, and pecking at water that overflowed from their supply. She had a good chicken life.