Sunshine passed last week.
I did not want to see her suffer. Chickens are not meant to live long lives like dogs or cats or us.
Fluid had been building up in her belly. I knew it was probably either an egg peritonitis or a cancerous mass that lead to the ascites. A few days ago her legs were so spread apart from the fluid that she needed to balance with her wings. Her mind was sharp, she was alert and eating but I did not want to see her suffer.
You see, she was spending most of her days in the corner of the run. Even Oyster Cracker had sensed that it was her time. They were spending less and less time with one another. She knew, the flock knew, and I knew too.
She sat on my son’s lap for the car ride to the vet. I wanted my fears to be confirmed and they were. There was no egg stuck in the vent. She had been in henopause for a couple of years now. The vet removed a bit of fluid with a syringe from her abdomen. Once I saw it I knew. There was no infection but a malignant mass causing the fluid to build up. I could have had the fluid removed only to have it return in a day or two. It was clear. Her body was failing her.
After we said our tearful goodbyes, complete with chicken snuggles and her nestling into our necks. We put her to sleep. This is the hardest part about keeping chickens. It is so different than caring for people.
In my career, I have done a great deal of palliative, end of life, and hospice care as a nurse practitioner. It is amazing what the human body can endure. Most often close to the end of life, we fall into an almost dreamlike state. Our mind seems to surrender before our bodies. I think in some ways this makes death much more acceptable in our minds and hearts. For chickens it is the opposite.
It is their bodies that wear out. Their minds are sharp. This was the same with Dolly too. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is probably a survival instinctual trait to remain sharp until the very end. It is also what keeps me guessing even though I know exactly what is happening in their body.
Time is fleeting. I have said it again many times but there will never be a flock that I hold more near and dear to my heart as the original six fluffy butts that arrived our our doorstep all those years ago. They changed our lives in so many incredible ways. Today there are 2 left.
I find comfort in knowing that they live on in my book. The original flock graced the pages of my book to touch the lives of many more families around the globe. I never would have thought in a million years that my flock would come into other chicken family homes and begin to share how magical the journey of chicken keeping can be. Life sure does have some unexpected twists- in a good way.
We buried Sunshine with her other sisters who passed before her underneath the Ruby Slipper Hydrangea. I know that they are just over the rainbow on the other side. One day, we will all meet again. If I close my eyes, I can see them all waddling and running to see me.