I knew something was wrong the moment I spotted her. As the other hens came skipping over, eager for their morning feed, Poppy just stood there hunched over. Then to my horror, I spotted it. The worst prolapse I’ve ever seen. Blood was coming out. She could barely hold her eyes open. Her comb and wattle drained of color. This wasn’t good.
I scooped her up and headed back up the hill to the house. There was only one kind thing to do; euthanize her.
I yelled for Todd as I neared the garage. Luckily we already had one of our animal crates in the back of the car. I put a towel in and made her as comfortable as a could. I reinspected to confirm my original prognosis. Unlike the last prolapse I treated, this one included her intestines coming out. Poor Poppy.
If you keep chickens, medical issues are certain to happen. And we’ve seen our share. Bumblefoot, egg bound hens, impacted crop, and even a recent prolapsed vent. Each time I learned something new. And each time we were able to successful treat the hen. Certainly we’ve had losses – another thing sure to happen when you keep chickens. But in all this time we have never had to euthanize an adult chicken. This was going to be tough.
We decided it was time to finally put our kill cone to use. Earlier this year we purchased a plucker and kill cone, intending to process our spare roos. But we haven’t had an opportunity to put them to use yet. A kill cone would keep Poppy secure and in the right position as we fumbled our way through our first cull. After some discussion, we decided a new, sharp, lopper was the best way to go.
After lowering her down gently into the cone, we rubbed her head one last time and thanked her for being such a wonderful hen. We waited a few moments to allow her to relax. And then quickly, Todd finished the task at hand. We cried and said a short prayer, relieved she wasn’t in pain anymore.
The Special Ones
As tough as euthanizing one of your animals is, it’s compounded when it’s one of your special animals. Poppy was one of those special ones. She was naturally friendly, curious, and a beautiful specimen of an American Bresse to boot. With silky white feathers, steel blue legs, a well rounded shape, and an impressive comb that folded on top of her head to the left and then back to the right, she won the beauty pageant of my poultry world.
When she was young, she would sit on the desk with Todd and just relax while he drank his coffee. Occasionally, she’d jump up on his shoulder. Not once did she poop on him or the table. And if you have chickens, you know the statistics behind that feat!
But once she grew older, she started having bottom issues. I treated her for parasites, increasing her ACV, oregano and mixing in clove and garlic into her feed. Things cleared up a bit, but her bum feathers never really grew back proper. I figured her next molt would cure that.
But fast forward a few months later and here I am burying her underneath a fig tree. At only 9 months old we didn’t have Poppy long, but during that time she sure made an impression.
It hurts when we have to say goodbye to our animals. Even if they are just a chicken like Poppy. But a value we hold dear is love and respect of all animals. Including the ones we raise for meat. It’s not weakness to care, it’s strength.