Chickens Health Issues Stories from Our Nest

How Chickens Say Goodbye

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Death is never easy. It is an unfortunate part of life but part of the bigger circle of our natural existence. I believe that everything enters our lives for a reason. Everything also exits our lives for reasons too, sometimes reasons that we don’t ever understand. It is even hard to understand the timing of things.  Everyone grieves over loss differently, I have seen many ways of coping working with patients and their families over the past 17 years. Yet, it doesn’t make thing easier when these things happen to you.

The flock and other people’s flocks continually teach and remind me of life’s lessons. Yes, even when it comes to loss and death. I think this is a time when the flock’s lessons runs the deepest.

The flock realizes when a member is going to pass and allows them to go off and find a quiet place away from the rest of their family. Once it becomes clear to the flock that they will be losing a member of their family from death, they each take their time to say their goodbyes. One by one, I have witnessed them communicate through their verbalization, hearts and bodies. They take their time, some longer than others. However, once this is done, they do not turn back. The rest forge ahead, choosing to let this member of the flock pass into their memories.

They do remember the missing family member and sometimes for a few days to weeks will call out to them, reminding them that they are here. It is as if they cannot locate the missing member. They are calling them home. This is especially true if this chicken was well revered in the flock. I think this is part of their grieving process. We too yearn for those we miss.

I have witnessed when a flock member passes, they chose to only temporarily mourn the loss and instead celebrate the remaining members of the flock.  They celebrate their love and relationships that are in the present. It seems to bring them closer. Suffering a loss does not mean that the chickens didn’t love their flock member. It doesn’t mean that they are forgetting them. It doesn’t mean that they do not care or that that chicken’s existence did not matter.  I think that they realize that life is not about living in the past, it is about embracing the future and not forgetting those that have touched their lives. Each day yields new beginnings, new experiences, new friendships and family members. Life is continually evolving and changing and somehow, the flock takes everything in stride.

We all grieve differently and our lives are much more complex than our feathered friends, yet their reminders still ring true. I am terrible at goodbyes. I still think about those family members that we have had to say goodbye to; Peanut, Chocolate, Percy Peepers and Dottie Speckles. To this day their memory drifts into my thoughts. I guess it just means that I loved them.  They touched my heart. Perhaps today, as I spend time with the flock and share treats with the girls, we will “toast” to their memory. It just seems like the right thing to do. I  don’t think the flock would want it any other way.

 

  • Wonderful post.

  • I've recently lost 3 of my girls, not quite a year old. 2 were while I was on vacation, never left them in the care of another. After the guilt, I realize the difficult time the survivors must have had, not knowing what happened, calling for them, even I wasn't there, and now being confined for safety. 2 weeks later the third died, I found her and buried her, but for days, back in confinement the rooster called and called for her, still there is confusion in the group but they are working things out slowly..

  • I found your photo on Pinterest and connected with your blog as one day I would like to go back to the country and get chikens but as I don't deal very well with my pets'death I have really appreciated your post. Thanks. Sara

  • Ah, well said and very timely. I have a hen who just isn't acting right and I think her time with is might be about over. I've been preparing myself as well as my hubby in case she passes. It will be sad. But it is the cycle of life.

  • Thank You, I needed that. Recently lost all but one chicken, Pepper and she wouldn't eat and would walk up and down the ramp in the morning calling out for 2 weeks and then stay in the coup all day. I had new babies to put in there to keep her company, so I did in a cage now they are 5 weeks and it has been 3 weeks since and yesterday she gave me an egg. I was worried and have been accused of giving my chicken human emotion, I didn't I just knew she was so lonely that it wasn't working for her and she wasn't gonna make it if I didn't do something to keep her company. Since losing her friends she lets me pet her and pick her up and feed her by hand, which is all very new in our relationship, and it feels good she is recovering every day.

  • Such a sweet post. I have witnessed this before too in my flock. One of the more solemn moments I witnessed was when a girl passed overnight and was lying on the floor of the coop in the path of the pop door. When I opened the pop door to let everyone out, they were all frozen and wouldn't move until I removed my girl who had passed. Like they respected her and knew she was gone, so they didn't want to walk past her to get out of the coop. Chickens are so much more perceptive than we give them credit for.

    Like you, my girls who have passed on still float into my thoughts every once in a while. The memories are tinged with sadness, but overall I am able to remember them in a happy light and be glad that they were in my life at all, even if it was for a short time. Each loss has taught me something, and for that I am grateful, even though it is so hard.

  • We have only had to say goodbye to roosters that we needed to rehome. I think about them often and wonder if they are ok. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  • This is such a lovely post, and so true as I've witnessed the same behavior, not only among the chickens, but other animals as well. Well said, thank you. ~ Deb

  • Wonderful read – you have a fine way with words. I have seen all those reactions and more. One time right after a hen passed inside my house, her buddy frantically looked for her everywhere for several days.

    After seeing that, I realized I needed to show them the deceased hen.
    So the next time one passed, I brought her body back outside in the cage she had been in. I placed it on the patio and was amazed to see members of the flock line up and pass by her body.

    You can see the pictures I took here:

    http://www.ruserios.com/misc/images/FLOCK_2011/Helen%27s%20funeral%20003%20(Small).jpg

    http://www.ruserios.com/misc/images/FLOCK_2011/Helen%27s%20funeral%20004%20(Small).jpg

  • Pam

    Beautiful, you do have a fine way with words. I was looking for something else and stumbled across this.

    • Thank you so much Pam. I am so happy you stumbled up us and I hope to see you here again soon.

  • Beautiful post. My little hen Pickles will be leaving us soon I am afraid. I have cried much, but have found comfort in your post…thank you.