It’s been an eventful week, and not just because of the holiday, or having our son with us for the past week (YAY!), or battling some kind of creepin’ crud amongst us (we didn’t make it to our big family Thanksgiving gathering yesterday as a result, BOO.) It’s because Monday was a day of sad significance here on the farm. Why?
We’ve been treating a few of our birds for a respiratory ailment, and they are quarantined from the rest of the flock. Amongst those being treated was our wonderful girl, Buddy Hen. She had shown signs of a sinus issue a couple of weeks ago, and so she’s been in the “hospital coop” (as I’ve come to designate it), receiving treatment. She seemed to be doing better, and I was hoping that this week, I’d be able to release her from that little coop, so that she could reintegrate back into the flock.
Monday morning, I went out to open up our buildings and take care of my first set of chores for the day, which includes refilling watering stations and cleaning up roosts and nest boxes. I opened up the hospital coop, and it felt like all of my internal organs were falling out my backside when I saw inside. There was Buddy, on her side, laying on the ground. She had died overnight, and rigor mortis had already set in. I held her tight, despite that, bawling myself into oblivion and an asthma attack. She had seemed like she was doing better. How could this have happened?
Buddy was our hen who had been affectionate and friendly toward me since she was a tiny chick. She’d hop up into the crook of my arm when I was cleaning their brooder cage and fall asleep there. As she grew, she continued to seek attention from us, and became so comfortable with our company that she’d come spend time inside the house with us. She’d knock at the door and announce that she’d like to visit indoors. She never pooped when she was inside; she seemed to understand the rules were different in here. She loved to explore around the house, and would take naps with our Boston Terrier, Loki.
And chips. That bird LOVED potato chips in a way that you cannot fathom. She’d jump up in the air for them. She knew the word “chips” so well that if I needed to summon her to the front porch, I could say it once or twice in my most enthusiastic, high-pitched voice, and she’d come running.
She’d sit in my lap and fall asleep, making little chicken purrs as I gently stroked her wings and back. But she also knew how to make me laugh; Buddy had a funny little chicken voice and would look at me so intently as she gabbed away, sometimes tilting her head to comic effect, even if she didn’t intend it.
One of our wicker egg-gathering baskets that sat right inside by the front door was a favorite snacking and roosting place for her when she’d visit indoors. I can’t even bear to leave it there any more.
Before this bird came into our lives, I never imagined that I’d get emotionally attached to a chicken. Sure, I’m an animal lover, there’s no doubt. But I didn’t expect poultry to be so full of personality – and it’s not to say that each and every one of our birds doesn’t have one – but Buddy’s was extraordinary. I don’t believe we’ll ever have another like her.
Part of farming is accepting the circle of life – knowing that death is inevitable. Animals eventually die, but you do your best to give them the best life that you can while they live. You just hope that death holds off a little longer. She wasn’t even a year old. We hope that what we’ve learned from this helps us to avoid deaths like this in the future.
We buried her in our front flower bed, next to a little flower tree that I’ve never learned the botanical name for, but I enjoy watching it blossom every spring just the same. It’s my Buddy Tree now.
I made sure to slip some potato chips with her after she was in the ground, but before we buried her. It brought both George and I to tears. We have no illusions of some poultry afterlife in which she will eat them. But they were her favorite, and the symbol is what is important – it brings some comfort to us, if nothing else.
We miss you Buddy. There will never be another like you.
You can read more about Buddy Hen by searching for her on the site.