Monday, May 10, 2010
The Three Janes are now two
She put up a good fight, but Jane died after a 4 day struggle with...well, it's still a mystery. Jane had been eating most of the four days, and yesterday afternoon she had even ventured out of the coop on her own, which meant jumping and going down her ladder. Last night, rather than secure her again in a separate pen, I laid her in one of the roosts, on top of some eggs. She prepared to lay down like any hen on eggs, so that too gave me some hope. If she was egg bound, maybe sitting on eggs would help stimulate her tired body one more time.
But this morning I knew she was dying. She was very listless, and her beak opened every now and then, a sign she was suffocating or not breathing well. Her head was still upright, but, I knew her hours were numbered. After I gave her a brief time in fresh grass, and said my good byes, I took her back to the proper place for her death, in her coop, surrounded by her clan. I was sure she'd be dead within the hour, having witnessed the stages so many times now. But she hung on...and on...by 2 pm, she was really out of it, and I opted to bring her in and clean her up in a warm bath. She was on her way, making sounds and motions I now know as death knocks. Rather than taking her back to the coop, I opted to wrap her in warm towels, and have her resting with her head up, hoping any suffocating would be lessened. But she was most likely comatose in that last 30 minutes.
I do not think she was egg bound, which is the only thing I and most chicken friends could logically think of. I did inject a needle into her large egg size growth under and to the left of her vent, but couldn't retract any fluid or material, which made me believe it was not an egg.
I buried her in the hen yard, next to Madelaine Albright, Zuchi, Henny and Gracie. Bamboo shades the resting spot, and hens gathered as I put her to rest. I was thinking as I buried her, with hens clucking away, nature truly was singing to us. "She died the same day as Lena Horne," I said out loud. Strange the thoughts that come to you as you bury a fallen friend, even a chicken.
I told Jane many times in the past 24 hours, that she should go if she had to. I think it's important to let all creatures, - two footed, winged or hooved or pawed- that it's okay to move on. I've also taken pains to look at them as the creatures they are, and understand what makes them comfortable, or not, in caring for them. I fretted about that last bath for her, I knew she was dying, but maybe I was wrong, maybe a bath was the right thing. Did I intervene there? Perhaps a little. Yes, she was a chicken, but you learn a lot about death, and the battle of life, when you care for any living thing, especially when caring turns to hospice. The body takes time to wind down. It always amazes me, even a chicken took what time was required to die.
But the sometimes odd magic of Apifera was at work immediately upon her death. Martyn has a golden rule for me - no new animals until one dies. And as I carried Jane's lifeless body to the hen yard to bury her, I saw a brownish, very scruffy cat. I called out, "Hazel, Hazel", thinking it was one of our barn cats we rescued years ago. The cat stopped not 30 feet from me, looked at me, and I realized it was not Hazel, but a new stray. It looked like a real survivor, a cat that had fought the battle to stay alive, and so far, was winning.
Thank you to the many chicken lovers who wrote and emailed giving advice, and support.