The sun shining on my little hen’s beak, first thing in the morning when the grass is still wet.
Piggy is dead. She was face down on the floor of the coop when I opened the doors to let the girls out yesterday morning. She had made a little nest on the ground overnight under the roost and had clearly been sleeping there before she died.
I was Piggy’s favorite person. Unlike the other hens, she didn’t favor someone else when I wasn’t around. She was My Piggy and I was Her Person. She followed me everywhere and was my closest hen-companion. She was soft and snuggly on my shoulder when it was cold outside. I held her in my hands when she had been outside and terribly cold as a week-old chick, so maybe that’s why.
She was loud all the time and was such a chatterbox! On and on she’d go, squawking about this or that all day long. I am fairly certain she believed I understood everything she bawked to me. I’m also fairly certain I understood a lot of it.
She hadn’t felt well lately but it didn’t seem like she would have dropped dead overnight. Yesterday was the day she would have gone to the vet if she wasn’t feeling better. I feel guilty. I woke up early yesterday (6:10am) but didn’t let them out of the coop until their usual time (8am). She hadn’t been dead long. She was cold from the neck down and her legs were stiff and cold, but her belly was still warm and her neck was still floppy.
If I’d gone in there at 7am would she have been alive? Did she die at 6:10am and that’s what woke me up? Was it her distress at that time? If so, why didn’t I take the hint and check on them? The vet’s office opens at 7:30am. I would have had time to make the 45-minute drive. Would it have made a difference if I’d gotten her there?
She certainly would have been more comfortable dying alone in her little nest under the roost. I think most animals prefer not to have company around when they’re dying. She never liked company when she was sick in the past.
However, was there too much ammonia where she slept? Two spots with droppings were near her but they weren’t on her. Her head had fallen next to one. She was also sprawled out face down, perpendicular to where her head was resting between one leg of the roost and the wall.
Did she get stuck? Her head wasn’t wedged in there, but did she pass out momentarily due to the ammonia, fall with her head there and then panic when she thought she was stuck? Twisting and turning at that angle for even a moment would have blocked her airway and she would have panicked even more.
I have the horrible, sinking feeling that is what happened to my Piggy. If I’d gone in there earlier I could have saved her or maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all. I should have just gone out there an hour early at 7am when I thought about it.
Shortly after I found Piggy dead, my step-daughter and I noticed Roxanne seemed on the edge of death so we rushed her to the vet. Roxanne likely has infectious laryngotracheitis and Piggy had all the same symptoms for a week or two before Roxanne. Testing would take too long to be of any benefit for Roxanne or the rest of the flock, so we didn’t have a sample sent off.
Did Piggy die from infectious laryngotracheitis? We’ll never know exactly what happened. This is a good case for investing in a coop video system with audio. I couldn’t think of a decent reason before now.
I promised Piggy a long time ago that when she died, I would give her the large stone monument she deserved. No little wooden cross for my Piggy!
I haven’t felt a lot better about the loss of our hens, Mother and Mrs. Pickles, until yesterday.
There are 5 people I’ve met who are the most intesting people I know. I cannot possibly put them in order because they are each the most interesting in their own way, so in order of how long I’ve known them: Mom, Dad, Grace, Dr. Zoologist and Dr. Entomologist.
The entomologist and the zoologist couple returned for a presentation at my DAR chapter yesterday. I had anxiously waited 5 months for them to return. The zoologist gave his presentation in October and they returned for the entomologist’s presentation. Each of them had an American Revolution-related topic, although I would have been happy with bugs or animals.
I asked how they had been. Their response of pleasant visits with family was expected, but the news of their dog dying on its 14th birthday and their tortoise dying 50 years after they found it was totally unexpected.
They’ve had other dogs in the past 50 years, but only one tortoise. In their years of traveling in an RV, they usually brought a dog and the tortoise.
Tires inflated, check. Hook-ups in order, check. Coffee, check. Dog, check. Tortoise, check? I knew people travelled in RVs with dogs, but traveling with a tortoise? Granted, I have not met a lot of people who travel in RVs.
People get birds that live 50 years or more, but there probably aren’t many people who expect to find a tortoise in the middle of a busy road and welcome it into their family for 50 years.
To lighten the bad news, I will share what made me laugh when I told my husband the vet called to let me know the report was in:
Me: “The vet called with Mrs. Pickles’ results.”
Husband: “What was wrong with her?”
Me: “She is dead.”
Husband: “No, I mean what was the cause of her death?”
Me: “Lethal injection.”
Before proceeding with the lengthy list of items in the report, I will note that the vet asked the pathologist about Mrs. Pickles having fowl pox and he said she could have had it, but did not have it at the time of her death. The vet also asked about the antibiotics given & was told the bacteria could simply have been resistant.
I have only included the condensed results from the report (originally 3 pages in what appears to be 8-pt font). The necropsy was performed at the TVMDL in College Station, TX.
It would be very interesting to know how much (or how little) the total cost is per dozen eggs for someone caring for a small flock. Calculations, estimates, and guesses welcome!
I refuse to calculate, estimate, or guess how much ours would cost.
…so I put it under the microscope.
My 12-yr old step-daughter helped me with the decision to send Mrs. Pickles for a necrospy. She offered the following words of wisdom during our discussion:
Bad things happen, but there are always benefits.