This week I bring sad news from Cluckingham Palace. Winnie, our oldest chicken is no more…
We re-homed Winnie a good few years ago and as such can only guess at her real age. We do know for sure that she was a bit hit and miss with the old egg laying, and popped out her last one over a year ago. But she was lively and healthy enough, and enjoyed pottering and pecking around the garden with the younger girls.
A couple of days ago I noticed she was looking a tad peaky. Normally she’d be clucking around with the rest of the flock, but she was off her legs and keeping her distance from them. Checking on her the next day, I was dismayed to see that she’d clambered out of the hen house and appeared to have spent the night laying in the damp dirt of the coop floor.
Crawling in on my hands and knees, I gently scooped her bedraggled form off the ground, and took her up to the house to dry out. Into a box went some straw, and on top of that lay our sick chicken. Looking decidedly sorry for herself, every now and then she’d stretch her neck and appeared to be gasping for air. A root round on the t’interweb suggested that she probably had something called gapeworms. Gapeworms can be picked up in larvae found in earthworms, snails and slugs, andresult in red worms that live in the throat of the chicken, making it difficult for her to eat or breathe.
In an effort to make sure she had enough fluids, the youngest appointed himself Chief Chicken Nurse, and administered water from a teaspoon at regular intervals. I’m sure there’s the argument, “leave nature to do its stuff: she’s OLDand she doesn’t lay eggs!”, but we decided to do all we could. You wouldn’t turn your back on your ageing auntie because she couldn’t whip up a Victoria Sponge any more…
Swiftly gearing into action, I shot up to our local farm store in the hunt for some worm treatment, which incidentally could have funded a couple more chickens. This was duly diluted and fed to Winnieand we could do no more than hope for the best.
Sadly, our best efforts weren’t enough to save her… the next morning I peeped in on her to find that she’d carked it during the night. Wrapping her final resting box in black bags, I gave her a dignified send off in the black bin. A garden burial wasn’t an option: we have a terrier who’d be digging her back up in no time at alland I didn’t fancy a tearful reunion next summer.
So we say a final ‘goodbye’ to Winnie: our oldest girl with the sporadic egg production. Gone but not forgotten, to the great chicken coop in the sky.
Appeared in The Hinckley Times on 24 October 2013.