by Sara Hessler
(Ellsworth, Maine USA)
Yesterday was a soft, mild, sunny day for late November here in Maine so I let my four girls out for some free range time, knowing that a snowstorm was on its way and wanting them to enjoy the yard before that hit.
It was Thanksgiving day and I had a lot of preparation to do for the meal, so I returned to the house and the girls made their way from the coop/run area to their favorite spot, the big forsythia bush, to scratch about and soak up the sun.
They had not been out too long when I happened to glance out the window and saw, with horror, my beloved, sweet, beautiful hen, Bertie, stretched out on the ground, thrashing wildly, under the forsythia.
I dashed out and picked her up and she died in my arms. Sobbing uncontrollably, I carried her to the house and looked her all over but there was no sign of any wound, no mites, no visible health problems of any kind.
I had no inkling of anything wrong leading up to her death; she had been eating well, was in a soft molt but not much affected by that, she was just a happy, healthy (or so it seemed) hen whom I loved dearly.
And then suddenly, she was gone.
I had raised her from a day old and she was such a gentle, calm, easy-going girl. I named her Bertie which was short for Roberta because my dear husband, Robert, had asked me to name one of my chickens after him as a "reward" for all that he did to build our beautiful and safe coop and run.
Once, when she was still in her first year, she came down with an infection and I took her to the vet who prescribed a twice-daily antibiotic for her. I had separated Bertie from the rest of the flock when I realized she was sick but each day I would lead her from her temporary home on our enclosed porch out the back door to free range outside a bit to keep her spirits up.
One morning I realized that she was not following me and when I looked for her I found her three-quarters of the way up our front stairs! She looked so interested and pleased! Then, after ascending to the top, she turned around and came back down! It made me laugh and just made her all the dearer to me.
I am still very raw and sad. My immediate family understands my grief and have been so supportive but others do not understand how devastating it is to lose a chicken-as the lovely Cath Andrews so poignantly said in her video about losing her beloved roo, Charlie, when we lose a chicken, it is losing a pet, and we need to have time to grieve.
Watching that video has helped me enormously and I now feel ready to carry on.
Thank you Cath.
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