Two of a Kind, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10
It's true. I killed one of my chickens. One of the chickens whose beak I dipped in water to show her how to drink when she was just two days old. One that I have worried about, checking in the middle of the night to make sure there was enough warmth, saved from a cold night outside when the little hen house door accidentally slammed shut, leaving the flock outside, blinded in the dark. After climbing over a 10 foot snowbank twice a day for almost a month, often in subzero weather to make sure she and the others had enough food and thawed water, not to mention doing a number of things in order to save two of her sisters which included making a chicken regurgitate the contents of its crop and bringing another one indoors for almost a week.
Last week I noticed that another chicken had the same symptoms of the one that died in a cage in our laundry room about a month ago. I knew I had to remove her from the flock and resigned myself to setting her up either in the garage or in the laundry room. But I also knew she would die, no matter what I did to help her, just like the other one did. So I started to consider euthanasia. Not uncommon at all on a farm of course, but not something I wanted to do either. I am sure that there is no way in hell that I could snap its neck, like a neighbor suggested. Nor did I want to hit it with a shovel like my very mild mannered friend did to her rooster when it attacked her one too many times, beating it to death. Although, I have to add here that our Number One Rooster In Charge is getting closer to a meeting with a shovel every time he attacks me. Anyway, I decided to slip it into a Tidy Cat cat litter bucket (which are the handiest things ever when it comes to chickens-I use them to carry fresh water out to the coop each day, to carry out scratch or feed. I would like to kiss whoever invented them), snap the lid shut, and leave it outside. I felt horrible after making the decision, but when I put the chicken in and she didn't squawk, fight or even react, I knew that this was the best way.
So five days later the bucket is still sitting outside, next to the garage. I assume she either suffocated or froze to death (we are having a cold snap) within a few hours, maybe less, given how sick she was. Not particularly humane I suppose, but maybe not so bad either. Anyway, seeing it every day makes me feel awful. On Wednesday I will put the whole thing inside a garbage bag and put it out for the garbage man to collect. I admit that the perversely curious side of me is considering opening it up to see what's doing in there. However if I do that, I'll have that picture in my mind, along with the picture of her going in still alive, giving me the eye. Not sure if I need both.
Coincidentally, I took one of our cats in to the vet on Friday and described the symptoms of both chickens. He said that it sounded like a nutritional deficiency, despite the fact that what I feed the flock is an appropriate diet. It could have been a deficiency particular to a certain breed (both chickens were the same breed) however. So I felt a bit better, knowing that it doesn't seem to be a flock problem, although I will have watch the others closely.
So much for taking a break from writing on the blog this week, but I just had to confess.