It’s been a rough week. First, the burial of the just-arrived-at-Christmas Dwarf Hamster of my god-daughter. She shed buckets of tears and invited me to Sweetie Pie’s funeral, in the dark, in the pouring rain, to say good-bye.
Then, one of my beautiful little hens, Amelia, got sick. Very, very sick. She sounded a bit like Darth Vader. I brought her in the house, put her under a heat lamp, fed her electrolytes and medicine. I also tried to feed her oatmeal and yogurt. She wasn’t much interested in any of it. She just lay very, very still. I paced beside her box, prayed for her, worried about her, and tried to coax her to eat and drink.
At one point, she seemed better, more alert, less wheezy, and drinking regularly. But just as quickly, she took a huge turn to the worst, and died before the night was up.
Amelia was the last little hen arriving here last summer. I brought her home for a companion to Snowflake (you can read the story here), as Snowflake was smaller than the other hens and the target of picking. They made a perfect pair and instantly became inseparable.
An odd and mysterious thing about chickens is how they’re super hardy and amazingly fragile all wrapped into one feathery package. They also like to act tough and pretend they’re not sick. This is a survival instinct on their part, as sickness and weakness is an invitation to be picked on. Even possibly pecked to death, by the stronger chickens in the flock.
So, Amelia stayed strong and I failed to notice how sick she was until I picked her up the other day and heard her terrible congestion. And even though I tried everything I knew to do, it was just too late for her.
With such a small flock, my hens are individuals. There’s Harriet who leaps and dances, and Olivia who loves to fly. Hattie who is usually a step or two behind and seemingly the brunt of the chicken jokes. And Makayla and Jessica who fight over the same nest, sometimes squeezing into that small space together, to lay their eggs.
Just last fall I lost my favorite chicken, Frieda, my gentle, lumbering giant. And now, Amelia, squatty little Amelia, the one who came to befriend Snowflake and did an excellent job of it. Because they’re more than chickens, every loss is noticed, and deeply felt.