Thursday, February 5, 2015

Goodbye Lil Red Hen

The majority of our laying hens came from Murray McMurray Hatchery in the mail and I believe it was 2011 that they came to us as day old chicks. We ordered 25 because that was the minimum and we ordered a mixed assortment because I didn't really know what I wanted. We knew there would be roosters in there and we planned to eat them when the time came. Most of them we did. A few were spared and we have one left from that batch--my son's favorite. What I'm getting at is these birds were kinda old for layers. A chicken can live a long life if very well cared for--I've heard up to 12 years, but they stop laying way before then. And our layers are farm hens, no question about it.

They began life here at home in a brooder then when they were old enough, they lived in a chicken tractor at the farm. That way they were safe from predators and able to munch on greens every time I moved the tractor around. Most survived. We only lost one pretty splash hen very young.

The chickens graduated to free range in the goat pen status and lived there quite happily until something realized they were there--probably an owl or hawk. We lost a few to predators and it didn't take long to realize the birds needed to be cooped at night. Later I made the tough decision to pen them permanently for their own safety. Chickens taste good to a lot of predators and they're a fairly easy meal--especially at night.

One of our old red hens, a Rhode Island Red, wasn't doing so well a couple of days ago. She appeared to be eggbound and looked very much like a bloated penguin. I'd seen this condition on the Dr. Pol show and also looked it up in several online forums for recommendations on what to do to try and save her. I cleaned her off and washed out her egg maker slot then put her in quarantine so she wouldn't get picked on. Honestly though, the odds were not in her favor at all. She was very full of stuff and when I came today she was declining and still unable to pass anything.

I made the tough decision to put her down and bury her on the property. I've never dropped the axe on my birds--just rattlers--so it was not an easy chore for me. I brought her to the garden and let her sit in the sun for a while. She looked pretty miserable. I petted on her to keep her calm and stayed with her until her last moments.

I think it's important to understand that when we go into the responsibility of having livestock pets--because that's what the majority of my animals are, we have to accept that we will likely outlive them. Because they are livestock and tend to be high production animals, their bodies sometimes give out too soon. The kind thing to do in this case was not to allow her to slowly waste away and suffer. She had been a good hen and gave my family many eggs over the years. So, goodbye sweet little red hen. You did your job well.

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