chickens are such keen gardeners that they kind of destroy the garden

(N.B. this post contains sad and possibly disturbing things)

tuesday was a bad day.

three thirty in the morning, and all was still.  except…  it wasn’t.  i was woken by noises in the garden.  not loud, just…  out of place.  i thought it was cats, as i’d heard some swearing at each other earlier in the evening when i was dropping off to sleep.  but it didn’t sound right for cats.  opening the window,we stuck our heads out to see what was what.


however, i wasn’t convinced, so threw on my dressing gown, grabbed a headtorch, and swiftly made my way downstairs to the back door, where i slipped on Hubby’s wellies which were by the back door, and hurried outside.   i had a brief mental picture of blood and sharp teeth, and wished there had been a weapon to hand as i left the house.  however, i reasoned i could always kick any scary monsters with my sturdily wellybooted feet.  these thoughts, however, quickly passed.

my attention was attracted to a rustling at the top of the garden, clearly made by a large animal pushing its way through the hedge.

i found one of our chickens, Winnie, on the rockery, head down and nearly in the pond, flapping in panic.  i quickly picked her up and held her snug against my body – stroking her, speaking reassuring but (i suspect) largely incoherent words, and checking her for injuries.  and then i heard a commotion on the other side of the pond.  as i ran around to the other side my hysteria began to rise, for here was a battered ball of feathers that still resembled our other chicken, Ruby.  arching her neck and flapping in panic and agony.  the last time i’d seen a chicken arch and flap like that, it was Eric, when she died in my arms a few years ago.  by the time i’d found somewhere to lay Winnie so i could grab Ruby and get her away from the pond, it was too late.  her frantic flapping had launched her into the middle of the pond, where her head went under water.  as i pulled her out, i knew it was no good.  not only was she flapping, arching her neck, and gaping her beak, but everything was at odd angles, too.

it’s extraordinary what one can do in the heat of the moment.  i knew Ruby would not survive.  i knew she was in agony.  therefore the best thing i could do was end it as quickly as possible.  by the time hubby was coming up the garden (all of this had taken less than a minute), i had a handful of her tail in one hand, the top of her neck in the other, and i had pulled, as hard as i possibly could.

poor Ruby.  she was a noisy bugger in the mornings, but she didn’t deserve to have to go like that.  i’m glad i did it – glad i could do it – but it doesn’t make it any easier to think about.  especially not when i remember two sharply defined thoughts as i did it.  “Dammit – i’m doing it wrong!  the legs, you stupid bitch – grab the legs!  too late – can’t change grip, now.”  and, “I really hope her head doesn’t come off in my hand.”  and the yellowish skin on her poor, poor stretched neck.

i laid Ruby down, and went back to Winnie, who was still lying where i’d left her.  she seemed okayish, she had at least stopped flapping, and she wasn’t arching her neck.  these were good signs.  whisking her inside, i sat on a kitchen chair, checking her over and keeping her calm whilst hubby put some wood shavings in a box for her.  mostly, she seemed ok, but her left leg was hanging worryingly limp and useless.  however, she went into the box without trouble, and even ate some sweetcorn (i don’t know about chicken shock, but i know that sweet tea and a blanket are good for humans in shock, so i went for the chicken equivalent).  we covered her over with a teatowl, turned the lights out in the kitchen, and then left her quiet.

two mugs of tea (me) and coffee (hubby) later, we went to bed.  it took a long time to get back to sleep.  it was about 6am by the time i finally dropped off, only to be woken from nightmares by the alarm an hour later.  fortunately, my place of work is very flexible in hours of need, so i was able to take the morning off, and take Winnie to the vet.  my most gloomy prognosis was confirmed by the vet.  Winnie would likely never lay again after a shock that big.  the leg was broken and, if not operated on, she would not be able to scratch at the ground, as chickens do.  the operation to fix her leg would cost hundreds, it may not work anyway, she could die of shock from the trauma of the operation.  if the operation half-worked, she would stand crooked and strain all of the joints on her right side.  even if all of that worked, she could die of loneliness from the loss of her companion.

poor Winnie. the kindest thing for her was a needle and a swift sleep.

that evening, we had a double burial.  now we have no-one shouting for breakfast at the top of their voice.  no-one to keep the pests down in the garden.  no-one to entertain us with their antics.  no-one to calm and sooth by the simple absorbtion of preening.  no gorgeous, rich, home-laid eggs.  i keep expecting to see their expectant faces through the kitchen window as i wash up.

we will have chickens again.  but first, the garden needs redesigning.

R.I.P. Ruby and Winnie.