Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goodbye my dear sweet Hannah

My dear sweet Hannah had to be put down yesterday morning. She was only 4 years old. She had I firmly believe, a condition known as internal laying or false laying. There is no cure for this and sadly it is common in high production hens. Hannah was a Red Star or Sex Linked chicken which is a cross between either a Rhode Island Red/New Hampshire and Barred Rock/white Rhode Island/Silver laced Wyandotte or Delaware. Those hens that they are crossed with are high egg production hens bred to really put out eggs. If you click on the link you can read a little more about the condition. It really is a sad and horrible way to die. They stop laying external eggs but their bodies still produce eggs (no shell) and build up forming a mass inside their bodies. This eventually suffocates the bird pressing on its organs. The only way to tell for certain if your hen has it is to open them up after they die which I have no desire to do. However all her symptoms point to it.

A year ago she and another of my hens Ginger stopped laying pretty much at the same time. During the past year however she acted perfectly normal and content as all the other hens. Their was however one thing I started to notice...she was getting heavy. Well 2 Sundays ago after we got home from church I noticed her standing legs spread apart and standing alone and not moving. So I go outside to get a closer look and she seemed to be breathing slow and heavy. I felt her underside and where it should be narrow it was large, swollen and hard. Not good. I honestly didn't think she was going to live to see another morning. Next morning she was outside and alive, this went on for a week getting progressively worse day by day. Here is the hardest part about owning chickens...

You might as well understand now for you new chicken owners that chickens though they may be your pets are not like other pets. Yes, chickens can live upwards to 10 or more years but that is if nothing gets them before hand. There are many things that can happen to chickens. They are bred for food and eggs and not pets. There may come a time to where you must make the hard decision of whether or not you are going to end their life or not. I have lost two hens, one died suddenly on her own and the other is Hannah whom I felt it was best to end her suffering....

For a week I agonized over whether or not I should kill her. She hardly walked but she was still eating and drinking. The last 2 days she went down hill fast. She didn't come out of the coop and didn't move from the spot I found her in. She was laying there gasping for breath eyes closed. It was so sad and horrible to watch her slowly die like that. I should have done it sooner but as I said it is not easy to do what I felt was best. I told my husband to shoot her. Their are many ways to cull (kill) a bird and I have read them all in case I needed to do it. But for me I just could not bring myself to do any of them. I think if I had a huge flock of chickens that didn't have names and weren't considered pets I could do it. I wanted to be sure it was fast and painless as possible. So he took a .22 rifle and took her behind the shed and shot her  in the head and it was over just like that. As I said it was not easy but I couldn't stand to watch her suffering like that, eyes closed gasping for breath. So now she isn't suffering and is buried among my roses.

Chickens are prey animals and because of that they do a very good job of hiding their pain so they don't look weak and stand apart from all the others. This is why watching and observing your hens everyday is important, you can get to know what is normal and not normal. Every hen is different but if you should see anything even a little different pay close attention because many times once you really notice that they are not acting right it can be too late. Like I said they will hide it for as long as they can. In the case of Hannah there was nothing that I could do to save her anyway. I have had several cases in a few of my hens to where I have had them in a kennel in my bathroom nursing them back to health. One was for 3 months! Others may have put her down but I wanted to give her a chance and she ended up making a full recovery. That is another good point...chickens are pretty resilient and can bounce back given some time and care.

So goodbye my sweet girl! You will be missed!


  1. What you did was the ultimate act of kindness. Rest in peace, sweet Hannah.

    This is the main thing that keeps me from pushing the Husband to allow me to keep chickens. One day, I will make peace with the inevitable circle of life, and my place in it, but I'm not there yet. I have no hesitation taking a suffering cat or dog to the vet to be euthanized, and I stay with them till the end ... no matter how the end comes, it is a sacred priviledge to have the power to grant our pets peace in their time of suffering.

  2. Ugh... I'm so sorry that you had to do this, but it was clearly the right thing. I have euthanized our very old and suffering cat and rottweiler, staying with them until the end also... because it is just as Connie above says..granting them peace when they are really suffering.

  3. Thank you both, it was definetly not easy but I was so releived when I heard the shot and knew it was over. I don't want to discourage anyone from keeping chickens, I just want to prepare people that you will have to deal with this sort of thing at some time or another. But though there can be some unpleasant things you have to deal with sometimes I would never ever not keep chickens because of it. I enjoy them too much, I love looking out my backyard and seeing them in their run or watching them roam the backyard when I let them out. This sounds crazy but they are relaxing to me and bring a smile to my face. They are not dogs and cats but there is something about a chicken...

  4. Thank you for posting this Meghan. I own over 50 chickens and it does not get easier with more. Each one has there own personality and it is hard not to be attached to each and every one. Yes, you said it correctly, they are not bred to be pets, that is our doing, we must never forget our responsibility to our animals, pets or not.
    This is the hardest part of raising animals. When I first got my girls, I had a separate small coop that I used as a "hospital" for sick ones. No matter what I did, they did not get better, just suffered more and I risked the other chickens well being. So, I now kill my sick birds. Thankfully, it does not happen often. They bring me so much joy as well as adding to my "business". I would never dream of not doing the right thing for them, no matter how hard it is for me.
    Hannah was a beautiful girl! Thanks for your story!