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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.