How Chickens Say Goodbye

September 20, 2013
Photo Credit

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.



Author/Blogger/Freelancer-Sharing adventures with backyard chickens, beekeeping, gardening, crafting, cooking and more.



59 thoughts on “How Chickens Say Goodbye”

    • i feel so bad today and this cheered me up and made me feel said for my hens. 2 of my hens went wondering off in the wood which is typical even thou we try to keep them in their run and they never returned at night fall we went looking for them and didn’t find them. so this morning i went to try to find them and found a pile of feathers instead. its my fault i thought they would come back like they normally do and didn’t go look for them before night fall cause i was busy with my kids and they wanted me to go look for them but i said they will come back. now I’m heartbroken and don’t know how I’m going to tell the kids. i know i have learned a lesson but i still feel very sad. now i have to wait till spring to get more chicks. I wish i would of listened to my kids and went looking for them.

      • My heart goes out to you, I lost one last night. Our pig broke through their coop cage and my chicks who are 22 weeks wondered around and I found a pile of feathers where my dog took one and killed her. My other two were in the back of their coop afraid. Broke my heart, I raised my babies and love them so much. I feel so guilty so not checking on them earlier.

    • awesome post. just had 3 hens pass, 1 week ago a 2 ,day apart. 4 most old. worried about worms from China ingave them from tractor supply

  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.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I somewhat understand what you are going through and came here for the some type of comfort from people who understand. I have a special chicken who I have to make that awful decision to end her suffering and its breaking my heart. I love her so much and I don’t want her to suffer but I just can’t think of putting her down. The vet is convinced she will only get worse and i really don’t want her to suffer, but the thought of being without her is so painful. I don’t know what to do. But this post and your comment helped at least to not feel so alone.

      • You are not alone. This community understands. It sounds like you have done all you can. Please take comfort in knowing that caring for them in the end is one of the greatest gestures of love we can give. XO

  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.

  13. I know that this post is old, and my comment may very well not be seen, but I wanted to let you know that it’s helping me cope. I’m 14 years old, and when I got home from school, I was going to let my chickens roam for a little bit. One of my hens, Summer, absolutely loves dust baths. So when I found her lying on her side in the dirt, I thought she was just doing some nice self-care. However, when the other chickens left the coop, she didn’t move. I looked closer and wasn’t able to see the rise and fall of her fluffy belly. I screamed, because I didn’t know what else to do, and I just wanted my baby to wake up. She didn’t, and when I kept screaming, my mom ran out to find me on the ground in chicken poop, unable to move from my spot. Summer was such a beautiful girl, and she was only 1 and 1/2 years old when she died today. It’s the first pet loss I have experienced, and I’m trying to death with it the best I can, but every time I close my eyes, I see her, whether it be an adorable memory or the image of her dead body. Either way, I feel absolutely out of control. I don’t know how to survive with this, and I appreciate your tips. ~L

    • I am so sorry for your loss. I know it is hard. Sometimes those images get stuck in our heads and we cannot unsee them. What I might encourage you to do is write about your favorite times together and draw some sketches of happy times. Also, when you did find her, she was not in pain, she was at peace. That is what we hope for, so know that she did not suffer. One day, you will see her again at the Rainbow Bridge. I hope this helps.

  14. Yesterday, we had to say good bye to our sweet Bessie. One of our two chickens that came to our lives in the spring if 2020, when the world fell into craziness. Bessie had some issues with reproduction last year. during that time, she started laying strange looking eggs, sometimes soft shells. I researched and went into blogs, called a vet for advise, gave her calcium mixed in little balls I rolled with bread, called it “loaded bread pills”, and her health improved but she stopped laying altogether. A year went by since she had problems. Recently, she started molting and wasn’t acting the same. She was still eating and drinking and being a sweet chicken but something was off. Then she started showing signs of distress; low tail, wanting to lay down, preferred to be left alone. I looked for a vet that would take her, and nobody could. Finally, I begged for an appointment and was able to take her. By then her breathing was labored and she had problems walking. I tried epsom salt baths at home. Made them quinoa with sprinkle of calcium. Even bought a little tent to bring them in at night (I have only two chickens) so they wouldn’t be cold. I live in Southern California and it doesn’t get too cold but I figured the girls were getting older and they needed more care. Finally at the vet, her prognosis didn’t look good. She had a lot of fluid in her belly and a mass. She hadn’t been laying eggs in a year so it couldn’t be an egg. Chickens are really good to hide their pain and discomfort. The vet talked about potential surgery but wasn’t optimistic about it because of her condition. She had lost weight and did t seem strong enough. Even draining fluid wasn’t something that would cure her, or take care of her many problems. The doctor said that sometimes chickens are born with problematic reproductive organs, sort of like humans. But in the case of chickens, they are more delicate and prognosis is not good. Since medically, there wasn’t much that could be done and she was struggling and using all her energy to even breath with labour, the doctor suggested “heaven”. And so,… after deep thought and discussion among us, filled with agonizing tears…the decision was made…she was gone.
    My son, who is 30, adored this chicken. We all did…. If tears could be collected…they would have created a river.
    I think we love these chickens because they are the epitome of innocence and purity. In a chaotic world, they bring us back to be mindful of the simplicity of the moment. They help us see life in the now. The world and life itself can be complicated but just watching these little creatures walk around, getting excited with the simplest things, running to greet us when they see us…eating from our hands…
    They say joy is found in the simplest things…
    We can learn so much from these little girls…

    Now Freckles is going to be lonely without Bessie…and…we have a hole in our hearts…

    • I am so sorry for your loss. I understand and please know that you did the best for her. She is no longer in pain. Sometimes, they don’t stay with us for very long, but just long enough to fill our hearts with somethings that we didn’t even know were missing. Sending you all a big hug. Perhaps this spring, new chicks can help fill the void. THank you for loving them and caring for them.

  15. Thanks for these thoughts Melissa (and everyone).
    We are currently nursing Polly in her last few moments, however long that will be. We have seen a steady decline over a few days and today she was in the run in a puffy ball as though sleeping in the sun. Little movement except a few occasional deep breaths, so we wait.
    My daughter (boss of our ‘bomb squad’) is beside herself and refuses to leave Polly’s side… our chickens are her first real pets and she has raised them from day olds. Polly will be her first goodbye, sadly.
    We love having the chickens, they all have their own personalities and follow us everywhere in the yard. From reading all the messages, I’m certain all Polly’s chicken sisters have said their goodbyes which is comforting somehow. It’s sad to see Polly so lifeless at this point, but we will wait until she is ready and passes.
    Then we will celebrate her life however my daughter chooses for her beloved Polly.
    Thanks everyone… it’s nice to know there are others out there whose flocks are family. xx

  16. I have been looking for information about hens burying a dead hen. Dead hen had been sick for awhile. I went looking for her in the pen, thought she’d disappeared! On closer inspection, I found her, the other hens had buried her with dirt. I found this unusual and very interesting. Kind of think it could be a way of protecting themselves from any pathogens. has anyone else observed this behaviour?

  17. Tonight I lost my beloved chicken. I had for for 3 years and one month. Just the most beautiful, smart, personable, and might I say BIG chicken. She had survived many bobcat attacks on the coop, a hawk attack against her, and another attack from who knows what on her. I was always able to heal her to the best of my abilities. She started to act differently the last few days. Then her feathers on her neck turned white at the tips. I went out to check on her earlier (I check on her often because she’s been through so much) and she was laying in the nest box. Not the one they all lay in, but another, and I thought little of it other than “oh she’s just found another place to hangout”. Then when I went to put them away tonight she was laying at the doorstep of the coop. She looked at me lovingly as I approached as she always does. But I could tell she couldn’t stand. I picked her up and noticed something wasn’t right. I brought her to my front door and put her down and noticed she had been attacked by flies at some point in the last couple nights/days I am assuming because there were maggots. I held her close and she began to die. She let out the last convulsions there in my arms. I pet her and looked into her eyes as she did into mine until they closed for the last time. I am so heartbroken. Her sister, her coop mates, and our dog winston all have been saying their goodbyes for the last couple days and I am beating myself up for not noticing and saving her. But I have patched her back together so many times, would it be right to fix her again and leave her even more broken but alive, or accept that she is in a better place with no pain, no limp, no missing feathers and a complete wing. She had gone though so much, gifted me with all this time, and just been the best. Its so hard to lose them. My rooster, Roger, died a couple weeks ago defending the girls from a bobcat. I hatched their eggs. She and Roger have a 1 week old child that will carry their legacy. Its like she knew her son had been born and had passed herself onto the next generation and was finally ready to say goodbye. I will cherish her memory. The times we had. The pictures and the videos. And I will do my darndest to keep her son alive. Rest in Peace you beautiful bird.

    • I am so sorry for your loss. I am happy to hear that they were able to have a chick and pass on a legacy. I hope you will see glimpses of them in the chick. Thinking of you.

  18. I think one of my girls is soon to pass. She has stopped eating and is no longer drinking. She has been on antibiotics for a bacterial infection for 3 days and after seemingly improving this morning she now seems to have given up. She doesn’t seem to be in any pain, I know they hide it well, but the signs aren’t there. I will continue to give her the antibiotics until they finish, but I’m ready for the worst now, that is, if we are ever really ready. She is the head of the flock of 5, so will be sadly missed. I just have to try and remember what an incredible 2 and a bit years I’ve given her, because she’s had the best life, and given me so many fond memories. ❤️


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