I don’t think I have ever written an eulogy for a chicken before – I know I haven’t. But sometimes, there are those special two legged feathered critters with a beak on their face that crawl into your heart who deserve to be memorialized.
It all started about 4 years ago when I made a chicken trade for a couple Bantam Cochins which were supposed to be pullets (adolescent hens that were not quite of laying age yet). It was quite obvious at about 4 months, Blanche was not an appropriate name, nor was Grace. Grace became Coach Gray for his pretty fluffy gray coat of feathers and Blanche became Blackie. When they found their “doo” (cockle doodle doo) they let that secret out of the bag that they were not going to be producing eggs and used for reproduction. At the worst, I was anticipating that I might have a pair from the trade – one male and one female – so you can imagine the horror that I had two more roosters and no hen of the same breed! Almost a year ago we lost Blackie to an unknown illness and set Coach Gray free to roam the barnyard. He was one happy-go-lucky roo that greeted everyone with a cock of his head and a comical gait accented with his feathered feet. I swear that beak turned up on the corners giving him a silly smirk.
In the summer he started limping. Thinking it was just a bruise or cut that would heal, we were not too concerned. After a while a friend, knowledgeable in chickens took a look and determined he had bumble foot – where a cut or puncture on the bottom of his foot got infected and was causing the lameness. In mid-summer, we removed the infection and the necrotic tissue and put him on antibiotics and lots of TLC. “Uncle Phil”, our Chicken Whisperer, patiently gave him meds once a day and was Coach Gray’s “Mother Hen”, so to speak. Coach got better. He was back to the feathered fellow that toddled around the barnyard. The surgery was a success in removing the infection on the foot but we had other complications. The lower leg atrophied and was removed. So Coach Gray became the token one legged chicken of the farm. While living mostly in a cage for his protection, Phil would come each morning and make sure Coach got a couple hours of free ranging exercise.
A few weeks ago Coach Gray looked pretty lethargic. He began more sitting in the cage than fantasizing his daily freedom runs. His stump had become inflamed and he seemed not to want to hobble around and chase the ladies. He was watching the world go by instead of being a participant. Again, he was put on meds and received extra special care. He and Phil shared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each morning but Coach had lost his gusto. The bravado was missing. The day had come and we both knew it was going to be Coach’s last day on the farm. Both Phil and I said our goodbyes. Phil left for the day and as the day passed, I constantly checked on our little buddy. His breathing was shallow and his eyes were at half-mast. I really don’t think he wanted to go, but had lost the energy to fight to stay. I would go check on him and call his name and his head would slowly rise. He was still with us, barely. At midnight I checked on him one last time and his eyes had lost the sparkle. I knew he would be gone by morning.