The white chicken on the left has been with us for about 5 years or so. Well, actually all of the chickens in this picture have been with us for a while. I originally had four Pearl/Leghorn egg layers from Murray McMurray Hatchery, but this one was our last, the others succumbing to frailties after relatively short but very productive egg laying careers. They were the first to start laying and lay they did! Big, beautiful jumbo-sized eggs that were the delight of my kitchen.
She was the last of her kind. I had noticed she really didn't come back well after a few months off to molt and R&R before it was time to go to work again. This week saw her beautiful red comb start to shrivel and become dull and grey - a sign of a sick or failing hen. Yesterday I thought she was just cold so I made sure she had the heat from the light towards her when I penned them for the night as well as blocking any breezes that may have hit her by shutting the shutters to that side of the barn.
But this morning she barely moved. Sullen, withdrawn...there was a look in her eyes of giving up. She wasn't interested in food or scratch. I left her in the warming morning sun promising to come back to check on her later. When I did I knew it was time to let her go. She had made it into the barn, propping herself up against the nest boxes as if she knew that's where she really belonged. It was time. I knew I had to ease her way past the pain into another light.
Our friend and cat-vet, Bill, had told me about "The Death Hug" he used to cull chickens. By firmly, but gently pressing on the ribcage and prevent its expansion, it calmly caused a chicken to go peacefully. I tried it and found her to go very gently into another place...one with warm sun, bugs, and large pastures. I knew when she barely shuddered it was a kind thing to do.
People may think it strange that a no-named chicken is held in such esteem here. This girl gave us many, many eggs to feed us and others and gave us hours of entertainment as we watched her and her flock-mates do their "chicken thing" in the pasture.
She served me well and deserved to go with respect for all she had done. Thank you, dear girl. You did well. And I will miss you.