Our dear matriarch of our flock, Louise, has passed away. I am unsure of the exact cause of her demise. All I can say is she was treasured during her time here with us and we hated to see her go. She was one of our original three hens that we brought in a card board box from Fort Worth. One of my kids' first pets, we named her after a spirited hen in the children's book, "Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken" by Kate DiCamillo & Harry Bliss. She was a superb egg layer and was the Alpha Hen of our flock. We will miss her dearly.
***I noticed about 12 days ago that Louise seemed weird, but you know...chickens are weird, and she's a chicken, so I went on about my business. A few days later I noticed she wasn't jumping up onto the roost in the evening any more. Instead, she was sleeping in the nesting boxes. I thought maybe she had gone broody and that's why she was hanging out in the nest so much, but she was only spending her nights there, so that blew my theory. During the day she would go outside with the other hens. After a few days of this, I noticed she seemed sort of mis-shapen. She really didn't even look like the same chicken any more, so I decided I better get a closer look. I scared the poop out of her when I tried to catch her and it was like clear liquid. I lifted her wings and realized that she was just a little bag of bones and feathers:( I could have chopped wood with her breast bone. I knew then that something was definitely WRONG. I went to my computer and started trying to diagnose her while watching her out of my kitchen window. When I saw her just standing there, not eating, not scratching around, eyes glazed over, neck swooning like she could fall over at any moment, I made a difficult decision. She was suffering and probably had been for days without me knowing. What if she had some illness that was contagious? I could lose my entire flock. It was time to put her out of her misery.
Roger was out of town, but luckily one of the guys who works for the ranch was near, so I asked him to take care of her. I ordered the hit and didn't ask any questions. I only requested that he dispose of her in a way that would not cause her to end up back on our front door step for the kids and I to find later. Our dog, Maisy, brings any dead thing she finds around the ranch and puts it on the front door step, or in the front yard. The other day, she brought a deer leg into the kitchen! Now that's COUNTRY! More country than I can handle!
In half an hour, I got word that the job had been done and I felt a huge wave of relief knowing that Louise was in a much better place and her suffering was over. I contemplated whether or not to tell the kids how she died (they already knew she was sick). I decided to tell them exactly what happened. Life sometimes presents difficult decisions and I think they need all the practice they can get with their parent's guidance before they have to someday make those decisions themselves. That is one of the beautiful things about growing up on a farm and ranch. There are lots of opportunities to learn life's lessons! We said a little prayer for Chicken Louise that night and imagined her in Heaven laying golden eggs for God. The kids were understanding and peaceful throughout the whole experience.
Louise taught us many lessons in her short time with us. She taught us that it IS possible to haul a chicken in a cardboard box five hours across the state and she'll even lay an egg for you on the way! She taught us about the social hierarchy of chickens and what happens when another hen gets out of line. She introduced us to the joy and satisfaction of having your own fresh eggs that, by God's perfect design, are the most complete and nutritious single-item meal you can consume. And those same eggs, if fertilized, can become fuzzy yellow chicks in 21 days time. Amazing! She taught us about the responsibility of owning a pet or farm animal and the joy of watching a chicken just being a chicken. They are truly entertaining little creatures! And finally, but most importantly, she taught us about the circle of life and the tough decisions we may encounter along the way.
Rest in peace, sweet Louise.