Last night Elizabeth went to put the chickens to bed and she came running back in the house crying because she found one of our chickens dead in the run. Zig was one of our leaders, our escape artist. She was best friends with ‘That’ (named by Oona who could only point and shout ‘That!’ at the time) and Clucky and the three of them would often get up to all kinds of mischief escaping onto the front lawn, hiding in the bushes and even, once managing to fly over the six foot fence!
She came running in hysterical and Imogen and Leon, who were in bed, came down to find out what the matter was. They couldn’t believe the news so I left all four children to look after each other whilst I went out to the run to see what had happened. Sure enough, Zig was lying dead on the floor of the run. They had food and water, the other chickens were fine, the door of the enclosure was shut, they were safe, I couldn’t see anything that could’ve caused an accident it just looked like she had dropped down dead. I gently put her in a cardboard box and brought her inside.
Too soon I had four crying children around the box trying to stroke her and asking me WHY? I had to stop them in their tracks so I shouted to them to stop. I told them to really look at Zig. At her little face, at her feathers, her feet. I asked them “Was Zig a happy chicken?” and they said yes. From there I told them that Zig was so lucky that she had been able to have ten whole months with us! She has had food and water and a nice big enclosure, she spent the whole Summer free ranging in our garden and being cuddled by some beautiful children. She was a LUCKY HEN!
I’d like to tell you my speech helped. It didn’t, much I’m afraid. Oona was shouting “Bocboc Dead!” and Leon was crying and saying that he wished it was like his computer games and then there could be more lives. Elizabeth wanted to know if we had done something wrong, to cause it and Imogen just cried.
Our chickens are rescued ex bats that we got from Lucky Hens Rescue North West last Summer. I have to say I was expecting our chooks to live longer than this and was worried I had done something wrong, to be honest but I called Alison from Lucky Hens and told her where I had found Zig. I told her she had laid the day before and that just that morning she had jumped out of the coop with the others as normal and she explained that sometimes chooks just die. They have a heart attack and they just drop dead like humans can. It’s so sad, but there’s nothing we could’ve done.
And so now I had to deal with my grieving children. I explained that being a battery hen causes so much stress to the hen’s little body. I showed them a YouTube video of some battery hens and reminded them why we rescued them in the first place. I explained that ex bats don’t have long lives but that it was all about quality of life, not length of life!!
Leon wanted to get another hen exactly the same in every way and call it Zig (he is keen on the immediate reincarnation presented in computer games) so we had to chat about that. Imogen wanted to get a new hen too, but one that was very different and a young one so she could keep it for longer. Elizabeth asked could we get a baby chick from a battery farm so we could save it before it got mistreated. I explained to Elizabeth and Imogen about how these things work: battery hens are born for one reason: to earn their keep and as soon as there is a question over whether they can earn their keep eg they are of a certain age, or they are no longer laying every day … they are for it! I explained that battery farmers wouldn’t let Alison rescue them in their prime, or when they were babies, only when they are used up. We are offering a retirement home and we must enjoy them for as long as they are with us, then we must let them go.
I didn’t want them going to bed with all kinds of negative thoughts in their heads so I showed them Alison’s video from her facebook group which shows her latest rescued hens seeing sunshine for the very first time. I showed them that the gift they have given our chooks of love is so very important and I told them we would go rescue some more on Saturday. We will have to get used to loosing our girls because we are a retirement home, they are not at their prime but DAMN! we are a bloody marvellous retirement village!
Our funeral package is pretty special, too! Zig received a letter/picture from each child:
Elizabeth’s Leon’s and Imogen’s To Zig, you are a great chicken I will never forget you Zig, Love Imogen They made a head stone (completely independently) Daddy dug a hole in our garden in a very sunny spot near some bushes where Zig liked to sunbathe We popped her in with all the pictures
and covered her over with soil. We planted an aquilegia so that we could have pretty flowers on her grave. We all said how we loved her and Daddy said some more words reminding the children that she had spent the best part of her life with us and that she had been super happy here. It added to the ceremony of the occasion.
Zig is gone but not forgotten by the Bridge children.