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Chicken Funerals

So we had our first death among the chickens. It was a very sudden thing and she died very quickly. They are 7 months old and when we first got them from 4-H they told us there would be about a 20% mortality rate among the chicks. We also heard out and about, as we were gathering supplies or picking up feed, that one of the neighboring towns had gotten a bad batch and nearly all of them had died.

We’ve been so proud that all 12 hens and both roosters have survived and are laying. We have had to change a few things like wood shavings instead of straw and we need metal water/food containers instead of the plastic ones for the winter. We also put a tarp across the top to help insulate against the cold nights. We have learned quite a bit in the process of raising them as well. I have found it both fun and fascinating.

Twice so far we have had the dominant rooster we named Kellogg have his wattle pecked bloody. The first time it happened we did some research and came up with some stuff called Blue Kote. (we picked up a different brand from Tractor Supply but it does the same thing). It had antiseptic properties, helps numb the injury and covers the smell of blood so that the hens and other rooster don’t peck him to death. He healed so quickly the first time and we coated him a couple of times a few days apart.

Well when Ordinary Dad and I were out gathering eggs one morning and I looked down to see the back of my hand was covered in blood. Sure enough, Kellogg was bloody on his other wattle this time. We are pretty darn good at getting this done now without struggle from the chicken or getting ourselves stained blue in the process and we grabbed the blue junk and coated him. Now there are a few hens that seem to chase Kellogg around and pick on him but that stuff tastes nasty so we just throw him back in immediately and figure he is gonna be safe after they get a whiff of him.

Later that day I went out and checked the egg situation again and one of the hens was huddled in a nesting box. That usually means one is sitting on an egg or a few of them. So I tried shooing here but she wasn’t budging. I rolled her out of the way and then stopped short. She didn’t even respond. I rolled her the other way and then laid down the eggs in my hand. I picked her head up by the feathers on her neck and shook her gently. Her eyes barely cracked open and my heart jumped up in my throat. I hot tailed it inside to tell Ordinary Dad that I thought we had a dead chicken.

We went back out the check the situation out and decided she was definitely sick. We took her inside and put her in a box with some newspaper and set her up near the heater hoping she would get to feeling better. In the meantime I headed out to pick Tornado up from her detention. Bubba and I rode down, picked her up, ran some errands and headed back to her school to go to parent teacher conferences. After that was done we went over to Bubba’s school for open house and their bookfair.

On our way home, I warned Tornado what was up with one of her chickens. She of course got upset and when we got home she made a beeline to go check on her. Unfortunately I did not beat her to it and the chicken was dead. It was already too dark and cold to do anything about it that night but the smell was atrocious. We put the box in our toolshed until we could deal with it the next day.

Ordinary Dad got called out of town for one of our clients and didn’t get home until late. So that left me, Bubba and Tornado to do the honors. I am still in the sling for this torn rotator cuff so I cannot help dig the hole either. It was already dark when Tornado got home from her second detention and dad had run off to take care of stuff. We are all out there in the dark, I’m holding the maglight and the kiddos were digging the hole. Two shovels and a post hole digger later we finally have a small, round hole that is roughly a foot deep.

So I get the box and realize I forgot to grab some gloves and I figure it should be easy to lift it out with the shovel and put it in the hole. NOPE!! The darn thing was matted solid and so as my kids watched horrified I keep trying to scoop this corpse out of the box while trying not to burst into tears. LOL. Finally I get it and then the damn thing rolls off the shovel and falls with a thud into the hole. I look over to see my daughter’s lip quivering and her eyes wide as saucers. I sigh and try to gently rearrange the chicken neatly in the hole and that is when it all unraveled.

Without gloves, I was unable to set it at the bottom and so when I finally get it wiggled into place I notice that one leg is sticking straight up. At this point I am sure that I am going to scar all of us for life and I take the shovel and try to push the leg gently down. It isn’t working and the more I try the worse it gets. I’m jabbing desperately now in between apologizing profusely to my daughter and praying the damn thing will just freakin get in the hole already. FINALLY we get it decently settled and I drop the newspaper on top of it and tell them to start burying it. We flattened it down and said a few words over it. My daughter couldn’t find any flower but she put a handful of their favorite type of clover on the grave.

So, if this every happens again we will be doing it the first day it happens, in the light and with gloves so that the whole thing is not one horrible traumatizing event again.

She was very distraught when I spoke to her later and I pointed out that the chicken had a great life. Food and water on demand and a safe and cozy spot she didn’t have to worry about predators in. I explained that she at least died safe, warm and not pecked to death by the other chickens. She started to wail “She died with dignity….” it took everything I had to hold it together. It was so funny and yet I feel so sad for her.

We figure that when we coated the rooster’s wattle that the hen continued to peck at him, got a mouthful of that stuff and perhaps a piece of his wattle and it poisoned her. The stuff is heavy duty and it says not to use it on an animal that you intend to eat. It also has poison control warnings for touch/ingest/eyes etc. All of the other chickens are fine as well as both roosters. She was a very aggressive bird so it is highly likely that is what happened.

Tornado hasn’t really mentioned it since then but I’m hoping she isn’t too upset and I really hope that my parenting fail the other night didn’t scar her forever LOL – because that was just awful and funny and absurd all at the same time.

I will say one thing my friends, if you had told me when I was my son’s age, that I would live in the mountains of TN and have 4 dogs, 2 cats and a butt load of chickens I would have laughed right in your face. But I would not change it for the world.

Until we meet again my friends, stay safe and be blessed.

chicken crossed the road