1,000 Days of Autumn

Do good hens go to Heaven? I hope so.

Autumn left us on Thursday morning, and strange as it may sound, we are grieving. For a chicken. I know what you’re thinking but please don’t say it.

It’s only a chicken.

Not quite true. Autumn was a horse of a different color when it came to being a chicken.

Autumn's baby photo:June, 2009

Even the most hard-bitten flock keeper will admit that at any given time, one or two hens wriggle their way into the humans’ hearts. In our case, Autumn made a bee-line for our affections; she was always underfoot, always looking for a cuddle (and, no doubt, a treat) and generally seemed to prefer human companionship to that of the other hens.

She loved to help!

She was a pretty girl. Her glossy, mahogany-colored feathers were tipped in caramel. If you held her close she would make soft little clucking sounds. I think that was her way of saying she was happy.

As many of you know, Autumn was stricken with internal laying and egg yolk peritonitis last spring. This condition is generally fatal, but we kept her going with frequent vet visits and Lupron shots to suppress egg production. But new problems emerged: a few weeks ago she began to favor one leg and then could not walk or even stand.

Chicken Emperor's best friend

We brought her inside and made her a little nest in the kitchen where she held forth for several days, enjoying hand-fed treats and lots of affection. She actually seemed to rally for a few days, relishing tidbits of oatmeal and cheese, and we wondered aloud how our house-sitters might react to being slaves to a house chicken.

It's always more fun to read with a chicken on your lap!

But sometime during the night on Wednesday, the pain and dysfunction became too much for her little body. The CE found her on the floor, unable to even right herself to a sitting position. He took her in to see the vet, who said it was obvious from the cast of Autumn’s eyes that she was in pain. It was time to say goodbye.

Her last days were good ones.

The vet prepared an injection and the CE held Autumn in his arms and rocked her for nearly half an hour until she was gone. The vet said to him “Thank you for taking such good care of this little chicken.”

She was only two-and-a-half years old, but those were pretty darned good years for a hen. Some may think it’s silly to care so much for a pet. For a mere chicken. I almost agree. But on another level, I think that any time we care for another creature, it makes us a little bit more human in the best possible sense of the word.

Autumn is buried in a very nice spot back under the oaks where she enjoyed searching for bugs and worms. She will be missed.

About polloplayer

Empty nester searching for meaning of life through the occasional chicken epiphany.
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12 Responses to 1,000 Days of Autumn

  1. Chicken Emperor says:

    My experience has been that to lose any pet is difficult. Many of the chickens do not necessarily seek human company and affection unless treats are involved, but Autumn was different. She truly enjoyed being with (and sitting upon) people whenever that situation was offered to her. She spent her last week inside with us, grabbing whatever attention she could, along with hand fed treats. We suspected she would never return to the coop so we tried to interact with her as much as possible (yes, you can, and do).

    She was the best of the birds and we do not have another like her. She earned her prime location in our little pet resting ground under the oak trees with all of the other past creatures that have enriched our lives. But as always, and with all species, the flock lives on.

  2. Katherine says:

    Even though I heard this sad news yesterday, I still teared up (again) at this post. I too will miss sweet, friendly Autumn.

    I have no words, so I’ll quote John Donne: No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.

  3. Not only am I teared up, I am sorry I didn’t know she had taken a turn. I do know you two cherished her, and in my experience to love an animal is a gift. So glad you had her for the short time that you did. I am guessing a cuddly chicken will wriggle her way into your future. XO Love, Ang and TIny

  4. Tina says:

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Autumn. I know she was a special chicken and will be missed. Your post was very sweet – a nice tribute to her. Xo

  5. Emily says:

    I’m so very sad to hear about Autumn. Your post was very lovely. She was a very pretty girl. I can only imagine how you feel right now with the loss. But I think I understand how much you loved that cute hen. I know you will never have another like her but I hope your other hens will give you as much joy as Autumn gave you.

  6. I don’t think it’s silly at all. There are no “mere” anythings.

    This is my first time visiting your blog… it may be a dumb question, but what is a “CE”? You mentioned it several times in this post, and I couldn’t find what you meant. (But I still teared up.)

  7. LittleChickenRacingTeam says:

    Autumn was one well loved chicken who got to have a very special life under your care. This post really hit me hard, as I hust lost Lucky last week as well. She was my racing chicken & almost 14.

    My condolence’s on the loss of your special little pet…LCRT

  8. Kate says:

    I’m so sorry to read this loss. I’ve been poking around your blog tonight after landing here to read about Easter Eggers. (We are getting our first 4 pullets in a couple of weeks.) So, I got sweet Autumn’s life story in one evening. What a fabulous bird she was. She makes me excited to welcome our 4.

  9. Sara says:

    Broke my heart. This just makes me painfully aware that some day we will say good bye to our sweet EE, Bok-Bok. She will run to us from any place in the yard. If we don’t see her, we need only to call and here she comes running with her silly little wobbly gait. Thanks for sharing Autumn’s story.

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