Elegy For A Chicken

The Most Difficult Spring continues: I came home today to a changed hen house.

First, I checked our younger chickens in their section of the run, only to find that Louisa Catherine was missing. Dolley too, but the big ones were in and out of the hen house, so it was confusing. Louisa Catherine wasn't in the oven either, but I finally found her hiding under the ramp into the hen house, crouched down in a hollow left from the big girls' dust baths.

She must have hopped over the loose "ceiling" chicken wire and into the big run, where she promptly was pecked at until she hid.

Actually, the others weren't being all that mean. Only Martha would give her a little chase and a few pecks every now and then. No blood, no missing feathers. Just regular old pecking order stuff.

Once I had that sorted, I looked around.

No Dolley.

I found her in the hen house, lying under the watering fount.


It's hard to describe the silence left behind by an animal's death.

So Kirk buried her on the hill behind the fence, and now we have three big hens and three little pullets.

Dolley was always the best chicken. She was the smallest when we first got the chicks, and she had an incredibly awkward adolescence. But she was the first to lay and was by far the most reliable for the first 18 months of her life, laying an egg day without fail until last summer, when she was suddenly spent

Despite not being a layer any more, she made up lack of production with personality. She would run like a dog any time someone walked past, assuming they must have a treat. She sat down to let us pick her up without a fuss, and she pecked at everything to get a taste of what was going on.

And she always loved a good photo bomb.

Lately she had been pecking herself, and though it's possible she got an infection, I don't think that's what happened. Her feathers had been growing back nicely after the winter's pecking once we used the Blu-Kote, and she never looked sick.

A friend of ours with a flock of chickens told us that sometimes a chicken just dies, and it looks like that's what happened here. No wound, no visible signs of lethargy or illness. One evening she was greedily eating chipmunk-nibbled strawberries; the next we found her with eyes closed, stretched out at home.

And really, we should all be so lucky.


  1. I do remember sometimes finding a dead chicken in the coop or just outdoors with no wounds. We always wondered what had happened....


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