My little Runty Roo

by Barry
(North Jersey)

My innocent baby

My innocent baby

Since Runty was a chick she would sleep alone. She had four sisters but she was the one they all picked on. She would sleep with a little cosmetic mirror so that she had a friend.

She was fast but very small. She laid eggs for 11 months and then stopped after a near miss with a hawk. I ran to her and yelled and the hawk's course deviated. Time passed and we watched her. Sometimes she would be lethargic and her wings would droop. We took her to the vet in November of '23 and apparently she was fond of eating rocks. The other girls had made it difficult for her to eat so she resorted to what she could find when they weren't free ranging.

Her crop wasn't right so we took her inside. She became my little shadow. She would cry if she couldn't see me. I'd have to call to her if I was in the shower or the bathroom, for instance. "I'm right here, baby. Daddy isn't going anywhere." She would follow me to the basement and she'd get little rewards. If the fridge was open she'd peck the drawer with the grapes. She loved grapes the most!

We spent the entire winter together and it was wonderful. I'd come home to a mess and I should have seen the signs. Her poop wasn't always great. She would drink her water with apple cider vinegar and eat her feed, throwing the bits she didn't want around on her mat. She sit in near the forced air vent and preen herself. If there was a surprise in her food bowl she'd make an excited chirp and would greet us every day when we got home. All she wanted was to be close to us, without being touched. She'd fuss and cluck really funny if we touched her wings.

At night, she'd jump up on my wife's desk and settle in. If my wife's hand got too close she'd get pecked. April came and I had built a separate coop for her. It got warm enough where I would put her out for the day and let her out with our other four girls to peck for food. She needed to be outside. Her coloring was paler than my other girls and her crown wasn't as bright.

At night, she wouldn't come out for my wife sometimes, so I'd have to convince her that it was time. She never went to the upstairs area in her little princess palace. Sometimes she would fly to me as I was at the back entrance of the house when it was time to come in. She still had her indoor routines and we adored her.

Every night I would pick her up and she would stand up and push herself into the base of my neck. I was the only one who could pick her up. She was my innocent little baby and I loved her with all my heart. I would sit on the scoop chair and tell her a bedtime story as she sat on my chest. Then I'd put her down in her 6 foot tote and sing her the bedtime song and she wouldn't make a peep until I woke her up the next day.

But something changed over the last couple of weeks. I didn't take notice of it right away. I was so used to her not laying eggs and having diarrhea that I didn't see the change until it was too late.

She stopped jumping up on my wife's desk. We had to put her there. We brought her back in. We thought she may have started eating non food items again. I stayed home with her on a Monday and I gave her olive oil with warm water and massaged her crop for 5 minutes and made her throw up. We would occasionally have to do this because she was sometimes gurgley. She had what felt like an impacted crop, a hard golf ball sized feeling when I woke her up.

So on this Monday, April 29th, she threw up two rocks, some black oil sunflower seeds and half a grape. She was clear again but for the following days her crop wasn't resolving over night. She was squishy. Her breath didn't smell but it felt like sour crop.

On Friday, we were off of work. I was working outside and my wife said that Runty was crying for me. I said I'm here, little girl. My wife cleared off my desk so that Runty could watch me. Her crying stopped. All she wanted was to know that I was there. I picked her up and put her in a small enclosure we have so that she could be outside and near me. She was always my little helper. On the weekends, we spend all our time together. She sleeps right beside my chair until it's time to wake my wife up.

On Monday, May 6th, I was again home with her. I could tell something wasn't right and we made an appointment, this time with a different vet. The first one had been rude to my wife.

The vet checked her, drained her crop and sent it to be tested. He made sure she was clear of any obstructions and said to do what we had been doing. She had been on a diet of Greek yogurt for probiotics and we would make her feed mushy, so it was easier for her to digest. She ate and drank her apple cider vinegar water.

That Tuesday, he prescribed Metaclopramide. He also gave her a shot of it and said that she should recover quickly now. My wife had stayed home with her that day. She slept and ate out of a dropper that day. She was with my caring wife all day and she slept on her chest the entire day. Runty wasn't sitting properly. She was like a flat pancake. Wednesday came and she wasn't any better. She went back to the vet and was told that the results would come in on Thursday. The vet gave Runty another shot and said she'll be ok, no need to worry. Looking back I should have asked if she could be put on an IV drip. Wednesday I got home and took her outside. It was a beautiful day and the sun was nice. I stayed in the grass with her as she got loves and pets, hoping the doctor was right. The other girls didn't bother her. Runty picked her head up for me and ate without the need for the dropper! That was a good sign! We brought her in and we put her in her spot on my wife's desk.

That night, I picked her up to go to sleep after my wife had administered the medicine she was prescribed. She needed it every 8 hours so my wife set the alarm for 4:30am (We wake up at 5 normally). I sat on the scoop chair and told her about Jack and the Beanstalk and how they got most of the story right but it was a little chicken named Runty that really laid the golden eggs for daddy.

She was hurting, I could tell. She had made little chick sounds 3 times that day when she was moved. I picked her up and placed her in her bed and sang her the song that she'd heard every night to go to sleep. "Goodnight sweetheart yes it's time to go...." and I changed the last part that night to say "My Runty Roo, I love you...Goodnight little girl".

We woke up at 4:30 the next morning and my wife sobbed to me from the next room. I ran to her and picked up my little girl. She wasn't there anymore...She had some rigor mortis already set in. I have brought animals back to life before but she was too far-gone. I wailed, "Oh no Runty!!! My Little baby! My little girl!!!" I knew that she had gotten worse but this was so quick!

We think her kidneys had been failing without any sign until the white discharge from her poo, which we had attributed to the yogurt. She hadn't been pooping as much yet she also hadn't been eating as much too because we had restricted her diet thinking it was a crop issue. MY wife called the vet and he was obviously very shaken up about it. Results from the lab came back that had said that she had a minor yeast infection and he was going to tell us to continue doing what we had been doing. Runty's death took him completely by surprise.

I had to go to work and I locked myself in various rooms throughout the day and just sobbed. I've been second guessing myself... I should have done this sooner or never have put her back out, etc..."You know she eats things that she shouldn't" etc...

I just want my little girl back. I want a redo. There had to have been some mistake. It was so quick! I had no time to adjust. She was so interwoven into our lives that everything feels empty without her here now. My best friend asked me what I would tell her if the shoe was on the other foot...

I said, "I would tell you I'm sorry... That I know you loved her with all your heart. I would tell you that she's at Christ's side because she's the most special little chicken ever. He gave her to you for a short time to love but it was her time to be back with him. He's going to take care of her for you until it's your turn."

I'm truly shattered by all of it. I'm very habitual and Runty and her needs were part of everything we did at home. Her greetings, her excited little clucks, her little whines for reassurance... I still see her everywhere, my subconscious filling in the blanks where she should still be.

So, that Thursday, May 9th, I got home and my wife started digging a deep hole in our garden. My other girls love when the shovel comes out so I had to distract them with the metal rake, clearing away leaves so that they had access to worms. It was time and my wife said that I was the only one allowed to pick her up . I wrapped her in velvet and picked her up. Her feathers were so soft and clean.

She will always be my little girl and I wept as I placed her in the ground under the grape vine. My wife started singing the goodnight song and I lost it. I'm still losing it. The weekends were our time... I miss her and I have a Runty sized hole in my heart.

Comments for My little Runty Roo

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A lovely tribute.
by: Cath

What an amazing tribute to an amazing little hen! Thank you so much for sharing her story and her pictures, Barry.

My heart goes out to you as you say goodbye to your beloved chicken. The loss of a pet is never easy, and I can only imagine the depth of sadness you're feeling right now. Runty was more than just a pet – a loyal friend, a source of comfort, and a cherished member of your family.

It's okay to feel overwhelmed by grief and to mourn the absence of your feathered companion. Allow yourself the time and space to process your emotions, and know that it's normal to experience a range of feelings during this difficult time.

She brought so much joy and love into your life, and her memory will continue to live on in your heart.

As you navigate through this grieving process, remember that you're not alone.

Fly high, Runty Roo. You were so lived, and you are very sadly missed.

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