Throughout the span of Buffy's many years with us (at least 6), her life has been threatened many times. This past Winter, it occured on an almost daily basis as I ran out to the coop, clued in by the sound of gleeful clucking - yes, chickens can be very gleeful - to find a perfectly good egg, laid mere seconds before, being voraciously pecked by several happy chickens. Buffy, our blue-eyed buff colored Brahma, was the ring leader. She hovered like a vulture over the other chickens that were dutifully trying to fulfill their daily quotas. Buffy was quite the big bruiser and was vocal with an attitude. And now Buffy is dead. Not by the axe, which we thought would be her end. She died a quiet natural death sitting inside her coop, without trauma and surrounded by all that she has known.
When I went to close up the coop last night, I noticed that Buffy was sitting on the ground instead of a perch. She looked normal, but not roosting for the night was definitely not normal. My husband picked her up and set her on the perch and she stayed there. This morning, I was in a rush and forgot to take note of how she was doing. We were gone all morning and when I checked on her around 2:30pm, she was again sitting on the floor of the large coop, not looking like she was in any pain, but breathing a bit heavy. In the past, the first signs of illness in most of our chickens has been closed eyelids and gasping for breath. But Buffy did not display those symptoms, she just looked like she was tired and lying down. When I went to pet her, she did not move, which was not a good sign. When I went out two hours later, she was lying dead on her side in the coop. Luckily the other chickens had not bothered with her.
My husband was at work, so I manned up and grabbed the shovel. I dug a whole in the farthest part of the back garden, behind the patch of wood violets and catnip that the little babe is cultivating as her own personal garden. We have had rain every night for the past several days, so the ground was soft and damp. I thought two feet was enough, but damn if Buffy wasn't a big bird. I just couldn't bring myself to force her into the hole, so there she sat, propped up, waiting for my husband to return and finish the job. The little babe did not seem fazed. She said that it was bad that Buffy ate our eggs, but that it was sad that she died. I said yes. She planted a patch of wood violets on the disturbed ground and I added some daffodil bulbs. So four big ladies left in the chicken yard and six small chicks in the garage. "Out with the old, in with the new" is a bit too crass, but something like that.
The last picture of Buffy, taken on Thursday. I don't know who was doing the actual work and who was just feeling broody, but we only got one egg out of this joint effort.*
The next generation:
*I finally got smart and had my husband build raised nesting boxes inside the big coop. The ladies had been laying their eggs in the old duckling hut that was on the ground. And guess what? The egg eating decreased. Now with one Buffy gone, maybe it will stop totally.