It's been a very rough week for chickens at Casa de Cherry.
A couple weeks ago I took June to a farm out in Oregon City where she can squawk her heart out and will have to learn to accept that the rooster is the boss. I'd come to accept that she is just too loud and too aggressive to be at home in a small backyard flock in the city.
Around the same time Wrench started acting a little funny. Kind of droopy and emo. She wasn't as pushy as usual when I handed out treats. She wasn't trying to escape from the run. She wasn't laying any eggs. But, I figured she was just stressed since I'd brought in Amelia and relocated her buddy June. I was wrong.
Last weekend, Wrench stopped eating. Her comb was pale. She was all hunched up like she had was cold. I was worried. I checked the forums at BackyardChickens.com, and they suggested she might be egg bound. Long story short (the long version involves warm baths, massages, children's vitamins, and other failed attempts at making her feel better), Wrench died last Sunday. We buried her near the raspberries.
I was sad to lose Wrench, but she was older, and she'd lived a good life. Chickens don't live forever. I was fairly sure she had a tumor, since I discovered a lump on her side about the size of a quarter when I was giving her a chicken massage.
Life went on for me and the chooks. I saw a listing on PDXBackyardChix yahoo group by a lady who needed a calm, mellow home for a 10 week old Cochin who was blind on one side. We e-mailed and agreed my flock sounded like a good fit. I brought home Babette Mendenhall on Tuesday. My friends started calling my house "Cherry's retirement home for special needs chickens".
Thursday I got home from work and Amelia was acting funny. She didn't come to greet me. She didn't try to fly on my shoulder. She was all hunched up. Alarm bells started ringing in my head. I drove frantically to Livingscape, who recommended I try another feed store in Portland. I rushed over there (I only had 40 minutes before they closed), and they reassured me that it didn't sound like the same problem Wrench had. They were concerned about her crooked beak and suggested I trim it so she could get more food. More food + apple cider vinegar, garlic and carrots in her water should perk her right up. I trimmed her beak (and accidentally cut the quick), dusted her for mites, tried to get her drink, gave her vitamins and kept an eye on her. By 9pm her feathers were still matted with blood from her beak and she couldn't stand. She was in sad shape. I wrapped her in a towel and brought her inside for the night. In the morning she didn't look any better. I pored over forum posts and every chicken article I could Google to try to figure out how to save her. On my lunch break I drove to Orchard Mills Feed Store, described her symptoms and what happened with Wrench, and he agreed with the diagnosis I'd been avoiding all morning- coccidiosis. We've had a very very wet spring, and apparently it's becoming a problem for other backyard flocks in the Pacific NW too. He broke the news that Amelia wasn't going to make it, and gave me meds to give Foxy and Babette.
By the time I got home, Amelia was gone.
Babette hasn't been introduced to the flock yet, but she's in the same area of the backyard as Foxy and Amelia. Mr. Lipsmacker and I moved the coop last weekend, so hopefully that will improve their odds, since coccidiosis resides in the ground. I'm watching Foxy and Babette for symptoms and trying to get them drink as much medicated water as possible.
I know they're "just" chickens and death is a part of life, but I'm still heartbroken. I feel guilty and sad.
Amelia was the funniest, sweetest chicken I've ever met. She made me smile every day. She liked to rest on my lap and perch on my shoulder. She was incredibly curious and fearless. She followed me around the garden like a puppy, and chased the Bus around the yard. I miss her already.
I miss Wrench too. Wrench was my alpha hen and kept everyone in line. She was a very determined chicken and devoted a lot of her time into getting over the fence so she could get to places she wasn't supposed to be, like my strawberry patch. She wasn't as friendly as Amelia, but she was a very good chicken.
I never thought I'd be writing obituaries for chickens, but these things happen. Please think good thoughts for Babette and Foxy.
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