Living with Chickens

The death of a pet

The death of a pet can be difficult to cope with. There is a grieving process that happens when we lose a pet. Over the last couple of years two of my siblings have had pet dogs that have died. The loss of a dog who has been a great companion, showing unconditional love, is felt deeply. I am sure this is the same with a cat and other animals, including horses. However, I never thought that I could feel such loss when my pet chook died last weekend. She was my favourite and had been with us for over three years.

I have not had many pets during my lifetime and never had a pet, even a pet chicken die, before this incident. I have had backyard chickens for around 6 years. It has been one of my hobby’s since I retired from full-time work. Backyard chickens provide amusement and eggs! As a pet they are good for our health as we watch their antics. All chickens have their own personality, their likes and dislikes.

We built a great home (coop) for our backyard chickens – ‘Cluckingham Palace.’ They have plenty of room to wander around in their coop and in the coop run. The coop has a safe area that is warm and waterproof for any wet and windy days. More recently my One & Only (O&O) put zicalume sheeting on the roof, and nesting box area to reduce the summer heat. It has made a difference to the temperature inside the coop. I know because I have stood inside on a hot summer’s day to check it out. We made the roller blinds for each side of the coop and these can be dropped down, half-way or fully, for different weather conditions.

Our chickens are very spoilt and my favourite chicken (hen) Carmella looked like she enjoyed living in ‘Cluckingham Palace.’ Whenever my chickens hear the sound of the backdoor key unlock they come running up to the top gate of the coop run to find out if I have any treats for them. Carmella would get very excited and jump up and down, like she was doing a little dance. Then there were those wonderful eggs she used to lay. As a Buff Sussex her eggs were light brown.

Carmella with her friend Lucy (a Plymouth Rock).
Thank you for the eggs Carmella (the light brown one on the bottom right).

The eggs we enjoy are expensive but it is a hobby and all hobby’s cost money! We are still years away from recouping our outlay costs for the coop, run, feed, auto-door and accessories. But then, having backyard chickens keeps me moving which is good for me. It also gets me outside when my inclination is to sit at my computer.

I believe I am a responsible chicken owner. I give my chickens a balanced diet through chicken laying pellets as well as fruit and veggie treats from the kitchen, shellgrit and dried meal worms. Each month I put a natural wormer in their water. They looked healthy and happy. Therefore, I was totally unprepared when my chicken Carmella showed signs of lethargy and stopped eating. At first I thought it was a heat related illness.

I isolated her from the others and with my O&O’s help we set up a temporary infirmary and within days her own outdoor run to give her more space. After a week on her own we had a visit from our neighbour, a vet, with a local practice in Toowoomba. Tablets and medicated water were prescribed for Carmella and the three chickens. I did all I could including feeding her raw egg through a syringe and trying different soft foods. However, she got weaker and refused to eat. She spent just over four weeks in the infirmary before she died.

Can you feel loss due to the death of a pet chicken? Yes, you can. Any pet is a loss, however small or large. Yes, I know she was only a chook but it was sad to see her gradual decline and sad to say goodbye. Others have also had the same experience of loss with backyard chickens. If you have recently experienced the death of a pet then this article might be of help to you.

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