How Chickens Say Goodbye

September 20, 2013
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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.



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37 thoughts on “How Chickens Say Goodbye”

  1. 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..

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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:

  7. I am a 42 year old man,,I have 2 amazing daughters, and today our beautiful Walnut died. She was so laid back but in the last 2 weeks her comb went purply, she started to move slowly until she couldn’t walk, and would love to know what these symptoms mean. She has a very dirty and clogged up backside, and just got thinner and thinner. I hate to admit it, in a culture of male strength and stereotypes, but I wept as to me this chicken, with her laid back nature represented all that was lovely, pure and innocent. Well anyway, there you have it. Is there some good site of information I can go to so I can learn how to keep my other hens healthy?

    • I am so sorry for your loss. It is never easy to say goodbye. I would definitely check the rest of the flock for worms, mites and poultry lice. I would also reach out to other chicken keepers in your area to come over meet your flock and hear their thoughts. Local feeds stores are also a great source of help as well as local vets who see chickens.

      • Thanks Melissa! I am grateful for your response and will follow up on that advice. The other chickens are ‘itching’ themselves a bit (with their beaks) near their wings areas which would suggest lice/mites. I will get some proper dusting powder and I will get some deworming medicine too. Anyway, I have learnt a lot by my lovely Walnut passing and taking chicken health much more seriously now! All the best to you and your flock too!

      • Thanks kindly! I will check that site out. Incidentally another chicken had the same symptoms (apparently ‘sour crop’ according to a verbal conversation with a vet). This time I massaged her, tipped her upside down to get the bile and blockages out of her crop everyday, gave her a warm bath in water with tea tree oil, but importantly made her have some natural probiotic yoghurt, and she now is totally cured! The yoghurt especially was immediately effective and I wish I had known this so I could have saved the other one! Anyone, live and learn sadly.

      • Wonderful news about your girl. don’t beat yourself up. We all do our best with what we have. I just lost one last night as well. she had sour crop, but an underlying issue I could not correct fully. They cannot all be saved. But to keep on top of crop issues, I check their crop every evening and morning (before they eat, still on the roost). they should be full at night, empty in the morning. If they are full in the morning, I massage their crop, usually that gets things moving and keeps them healthy.

      • Sadly this is true, and a vet I spoke to said the same. Sour crop is hard to beat or understand but all we can do is try and look after our ladies. I have certainly learnt more about caring for chickens now that I lost one! I will check them everyday,,good idea! Thanks kindly.

  8. Even though this post and comments are old, I lost my dearest special needs girl after 13 months and am hoping verbalizing here will help me heal. I always knew her time would be shorter, but as we bonded differently over her special needs, she was always my heart. I have never cried for human or pet, like I have for her. Logically, I know I must carry on for my flock but Im having a very hard time. They stand and call for her and it upsets me all over again. I ask anyone who may read this to please wish good vibes for my flock and myself as we try to adapt. I would never have thought I would grieve this much.

  9. Your words brought me to tears. It breaks my heart to say goodbye but from now on I will try to learn from the chickens and celebrate each loss with my beautiful remaining flock, humans or birds. I hope I won’t lose a flock member soon but when I will, I’ll definitely bring everyone treats and spend quality time with them, try to focus on the plus side. Thank you for this amazing lesson.

  10. I love your post, very heartfelt beautiful words!
    My chickens must be different because I have seen something far from compassion after one their flock recently passed.
    My favorite girl Goldie passed away from an unknown cause. She was fine in the morning but when I found her later in the day the other girls had basically treated her like something to eat (saying this nicely). There was plenty of food and water, nothing different in the environment!
    Please help me understand! I’m very sad and distraught! I wanted to believe my girls had more compassion for one another!

    • I’m so sorry Lisa you had to go through that. How many chickens do you have? They could have done this from a protein deficit. If there was blood they will peck. If they saw a bug on her, they would peck. Also, what was her spot in the pecking order? Your experience is not typically the norm.

  11. I lost my one month old chick which is my lovely most beautiful and more energetic one. I’m unable to overcome from it’s memories. It used to poke my toes. It is the embodiment of liveliness. I’m getting nightmares everyday about it. I hope your blog helps me to heal…

  12. Thank you for this post. It is exactly what I need at this moment. I just lost my hen, Peach, last night. She died in our arms. I am heartbroken about the loss of my beloved pet chicken. She was a wonderful companion and I learned so much in keeping her. She was my first chicken and actually found her way onto my front window. I still have no clue where she wandered from, and I live in a suburb with plenty of homes around. She suddenly developed water belly, so I took her to the vet, but she wasn’t able to recover after having the fluids drained. They had also found a mass near her ovaries and think that’s what she passed from so fast. She lived only 4 days after visiting the vet. I’m not sure how old she really was but I am so grateful and honored that she found her way to me and gave me the best 2 years and 2 weeks.

    • Oh Whitney, I am so very sorry. It is difficult but take comfort in knowing how much you loved one another and that you had that special time together. I am sending you a big hug.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.