Peter 'Happy' Thomas (happypete) wrote,
Peter 'Happy' Thomas
happypete

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Farewell, Wonky Chicken

Wonky Chicken, so named because illness or unhealed injury forced her to walk with one leg, and "wing crutches," was one of the chickens that came to us from our dear friends who moved out of state.  Well, I don't think she was "wonky" when they had her...one guess is that she got hurt in transit or during the general chaos of the move.  We knew she wasn't going to recover fully and be a layer again, and she looked uncomfortable.  We almost put her down right away--but Q called for clemency and undertook to watch out for her.  In any event, under his care she made a good rally, and seemed to basically keep up with the flock.  Sadly, over the last couple weeks, she slid back downhill.  She was getting around a little bit, but then she stopped roosting with the flock.  Each night she had to be hand-carried into the coop from the little valley between rocks and tree roots.  I think she decided that was the easiest venue to "shelter-in-place."  There is a tiny rise up to the coop, and I think it just became too much.  I realized as I wrote this that tonight was the first night in weeks that I didn't also have to chase a handful of birds from the rocks and roots next to Wonky's chosen lair.  I now suspect that they weren't being difficult:  they were forming a Chicken Shield around their struggling sister.

During the day, Wonky would struggle out to be as close to the flock as she could.  Generally in the evening before they roosted, I would find her in one of the dust-bathing basins that the chickens dug outside the pen.  She'd come in when food and water beckoned.  When she rallied, she was clean and energetic looking, despite her obvious mobility challenges.  Day-by-day this past week, she was looking more bedraggled.  Finally, tonight, we knew it was time to tell Quinn.  Our friends were back in town, and we decided to say good-bye to her together, and then I would go do what was necessary.  The kids, as usual, ran ahead of me--and the call came back.  "She's already dead.  Wonky's already dead."  Sure enough:  she had chosen her own moment, right after the sundown of Solstice eve, basking in the bathing bowl.

Quinn and his friends wanted to bury her--which I suppose is fair enough for an animal that has earned itself a name--whether by merit or misadventure.  So, off we hiked in the gloaming to the back of the pasture where the relatively pliable earth of the excess dirt pile from excavation serves as a makeshift graveyard for animals.  We dug her a shallow grave and built a little cairn of loose rocks, to hopefully give the sod time to re-knit before anything came a-digging.  Quinn wanted to say a prayer--which he did, and a fairly nice one it was.  He didn't invoke a creator or other deities--just said a few kind words about Wonky, and why she had been his favorite chicken.  The littlest sister gave this prayer a very sweet Amen.

Then we headed back to the barn to finish our barn chores and get everyone into bed.

Just another day and night at Tumble Rock Farm.
Tags: chickens, children, farming
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