I knew from the beginning that sooner or later at least one of my chickens was going to die. I mean, they all will eventually, but I fully expected at least one of the baby chicks to not make it to adulthood, and even though I managed to keep them alive that long, I knew it couldn’t last. I was right. In early Spring we lost a Mandrell Sister.
The days were getting longer, and more light means more eggs. I was beginning to suspect that more eggs also meant more broody time, which is when they want to sit on an egg until it hatches. One morning I opened the coop door to put more wood chips in and one of the Mandrell Sisters was hanging out in the nesting bucket. I was willing to allow that there was a slight chance that she was actually laying an egg at that hour, but we’re talking about 5:15 in the morning, and total darkness, so I was really leaning towards it being broodiness. I even heard someone make the weird broody noise, and since she was in the bucket, I assumed it was her. I was willing to let her hang out there all day, though. If she was still there when I got home, I’d put her in the bird cage I use to snap the chickens out of broodiness.
I got home, and I could see that everyone was out in the run as I approached, so I chalked it up to a false alarm, or maybe she actually had been ready to lay an egg that early. I am barely capable of opening my eyes and breathing at that hour, so more power to her, I thought. The next morning when I left, they were all out eating in the run, so I figured I had totally misread the situation.
That night I came home and there was one less chicken in the run than I expected. Now I figured that either she had gotten broody again and it took her a few tries to really get it working, or someone was laying an egg much later than I expected. I opened the coop expecting to find a chicken in the bucket, but instead I found her laying on the floor of the coop, lifeless.
I picked her up and brought her to the steps. We still had about a foot of rock solid snow on the ground, so even if I could get through the snow, the ground was still probably frozen solid, and if it wasn’t there are so many rocks it’s incredibly difficult to dig deep enough to plant a shrub, much less keep a body safe from varmints.
I texted my wife about what to do, and she suggested calling the vet. Turns out they will cremate a small body for $25. I bagged her up and had to drag my son away from his video game, which he was not happy about, but when I explained what was happening he seemed to think it was important. We had a short talk about how things that are alive also die, and it was sad that the Mandrell sister died, but it was all part of life. Then we drove to the vet and dropped off the body. I assumed that for $25 I wasn’t going to be getting any ashes back, so I wouldn’t get a chance to sprinkle her remains under the trees they all like to forage under. This is probably fine, since this raised the possibility of the others accidentally eating part of her, and I’d like to avoid that sort of activity.
The next morning my son asked if the Mandrell Sister wasn’t dead anymore. We explained that once you’re dead, that’s it, but she had a good life. He said he was sad, and we said we were too. You know what? It’s o.k. to be sad when a chicken dies. They may not be around as long as other pets, and they may leave without warning, but that doesn’t make them any less valued as companions. Go out there and love your chickens while you can, people.