One of my chickens is dying. On Monday morning when I went to give my small flock of seven some food and water she had that look that I’ve come to recognize as the dying chicken look. She was huddled on the ground instead of perched up high on the branches I’ve arranged inside the henhouse and she didn’t show any interest in what I was bringing. I thought she’d be dead by the end of the day, but she’s been hanging in there all week.
This isn’t anything new. I’ve been keeping chickens for quite a few years now and we’ve watched many of them grow old and die. Some people are very systematic about culling their chickens in order to keep their egg yield high, but I don’t have it in me to kill something just because its productivity isn’t optimal. I did banish one from the coop once when she wouldn’t stop eating eggs and I found a pile of feathers a few days later.
I first started raising chickens when my children were little and I didn’t work away from home. It was always exciting to get the baby chicks in the spring. We’d go to the feed store and each kid would choose one that they could call their own. Adella usually chose a Buff Orpington. Dillon was partial to the black and white spotted Barred Rocks. We raised them in cardboard boxes in the house for a few weeks before we introduced them to the older hens in the coop. My kids were proud of their chickens and loved showing them off to their neighbor friends.
Times have changed though. Now that my kids are teenagers they show no interest whatsoever in anything farm or garden related and I spend big chunks of my time away from home. I’m pretty sure it no longer makes sense to keep chickens. I should probably make my life easier by buying eggs at the store like most reasonable people, but I guess my chickens aren’t just about the eggs.
I love to watch them in the spring after the soil thaws; manic in their search for worms after a long winter. I love that to them, nothing is more luxurious than a dust bath. They remind me that a good life isn’t always about high productivity. It’s more about enjoying the life we’ve been given.