Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Tilly’s Passing- Saying Goodbye

bouquet for Tilly's passing
Her final bouquet.
Tilly’s passing was not sudden. For the past few weeks our head hen Tilly had begun to show her age. She slowed down. Eating, drinking and dust bathing, she spent most of her days napping in the brilliant spring sunshine. She became a bit less talkative but still came when I called her. Two days ago, she enjoyed sitting in my lap and munching on a handful of dried meal worms just for her. When she was little, she had experienced some major crop issues at 10 weeks of age. All these years later, I was grateful to still have her. 
Two nights ago, I noticed that Tilly chose not to roost when turning in for the night. Instead she chose a corner of clean lofty pine shavings away from the flock for her place to sleep. I had a feeling I would not see her again. Somehow, she was telling the flock that it was her time. The following morning, I went out to the coop and noticed that Tilly was not in the run. I peered in the coop through the window. She was laying on the floor.
I mustered up my strength and went inside. She was barely alive. Laying on the floor, calm, peaceful and in a sleep-like state. Her eyes were closed. I spoke to her and gently petted her back. She was warm and soft. Then she lifted her head a bit and opened her eyes to see me. I felt as though she held on to gaze at me one more time. Our eyes met. I could see that she was tired. I lifted her up into my lap and held her. Her breathing was unlabored but slower and less frequent. I stroked her feathers. I told her how much I loved her and that she was free to join her sisters in heaven.  I also thanked her for leading the flock so beautifully all these years.
Tilly's Nest- tilly dragging branch (1)wp
One day she decided to she had to drag this branch all over the yard!
Tilly was an amazing head hen. Everything started on this blog because of her. A little black hen with spunk, spirit, tenacity, and a lust for life. She taught me and my family so many things. We learned that leaders can be firm but loving. She taught us about friendship, loyalty, and to laugh at ourselves now and then. She taught us about patience and kindness. She taught us about being light-hearted and for that we are so grateful.
Tilly's Nest- tilly black australorpwp
I laid her to rest yesterday in the beautiful hosta garden. I placed her in the hole and picked a lovely chicken-sized bouquet of a hosta leaf, Lily of the Valley, grape hyacinth, phlox, and a bit of Russian sage. I placed it on her lifeless body. As the sun shone on her, I could feel the rays of light warming her feathers. It was as if she was taking her last moment to bathe in those glorious warming rays. They were her favorite. I plucked a tiny feather from her wing and tucked it in my pocket. This goodbye was numbing.
I know there are many more little bits of her than just those in my heart. They are in my garden, my children’s memories, and the flock. I can still hear her chicken chatter in my head when I close my eyes. I will continue to “see” Tilly all around me. These are the bits and pieces that touch our hearts. They somehow find their way through our exteriors and change us inside without us even knowing. Changing us for the better. Sometimes its when they are gone that we truly realize the internal metamorphosis that has occurred. This time it was through this sweet little hen named Matilda- Tilly for short.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest


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