Coping with Losing a Chicken
By Brittany Thompson, Georgia
Yes, you read the title of this article correctly. Special people like us who do love their chickens like family members, occasionally losing one or more of our feathered friends. Whether it is from the ravages of time or predators, it feels like the end of the world. I do sympathize and have found some ways to cope with the losses. I would also like to share my losses and how to deal with them. Everyone is different, so coping with losses may take longer for some than others.
I lost my first chicken about two years ago. She was a two-year-old Easter Egg hen. Her name was Bandit and she was a very outgoing and adorable hen. The loss of her devastated me for quite some time. I blamed myself for not being there for her. Since Bandit, I have lost five chickens despite living in the middle of the woods. I can name all of them: Goldie, Butters, Penguin, and The Fatty. I found Fatty in my yard with his neck broken. His loss has been the hardest for me. I had raised him from a day old and he was about to be four years old. Seeing him like that was by far the worst experience for me.
I do not deal well with the loss of animals and never have. I got down on my knees beside him and kept saying, “Please come back Fatty.” I said it over and over. The accident had just happened; he was still warm. I am sure my distant neighbors heard me crying that day. I have cried a lot since.
I have found some small ways to deal with the losses of my great friends, whom I also consider my children in a way. I am very protective of my flock and go through great pains to prevent accidents. Some of the small ways I have found to cope:
• Go out and buy some baby chicks! You know the great joy of raising these cute little balls of fluff. They cannot replace a lost friend but they do give you something to do and look forward to.
• Don’t blame yourself. I am sure you are doing the best you can with what life has given you. Backyard chickens have much better lives than commercial chickens and just think: your chicken had a good life!
• Spend as much time with your flock as you can. You never know when something may happen and at least you got to enjoy all of them.
• Think positive. No what ifs and whys. Positive thinking may sound like a cliché but it really helps the mind heal.
• Losing any treasured animal companion is devastating. If you are able, bury your chicken in a place they loved to be, if they free ranged. The Fatty is buried by the woods beside our house. His favorite spot.
The list may sound like such a simple thing. These are the things that I have done when I have lost one of my chickens. I am still here today and raising even more. I feel great knowing my chickens have the best life, even if it may be cut short. They have five cleared acres of land to roam, countless acres of woods, favorite dusting spots, endless feed, treats, and beautiful coop.
They have it made and above everything else, that is what satisfies the heart.
Originally published in the October/November 2013 issue of Backyard Poultry.