Popped my head out of the french windows in the kitchen a couple of hours ago to check on the chooks, and was rewarded with the horrible sight of a dead hen. Tilda had keeled over under the rosemary bush.
It wasn't a surprise - she's not been in the best of health for some time; but it was a shock. I ran out, starting to blub, followed by a concerned DH who had no idea what I could see. it couldn't have long happened, as she had been standing around an hour or so before. When I bent down to pick her up, rigor mortis had not set in.
As I lifted her body up, her eyelid fluttered briefly. She was still in there. I carried her into the kitchen, then sat on the floor with her on my lap. She was stiff, almost rigid; not rigor mortis, but there was no movement at all. . Her eyelid continued to flutter, opening occasionally, and I stroked her gently and told her how much I loved her and how happy she had made me.
Poor DH didn't know what to do - there isn't much you can do, is there? I didn't want him to have to do the deed, it looked like Tilda had had a stroke but just hadn't finally died yet. Her comb was purple, so I assume she'd had a heart attack.
I sat stroking her, talking to her (although I'm not sure she could really make out the words between the sobs) waiting for her to go. Although I was so very upset that she was going, it was some comfort knowing that she wasn't going to die alone, she would be in my arms and she would know how much she meant to me.
DH asked if I wanted to try Nutridrops. I didn't want to stress her out even more by forcing them into her beak, so I just dribbled some on the tip of her beak and let it roll round to the front. From there, it dribbled into her mouth and she swallowed it. I did this a few more times.
We sat there for what seemed like many minutes. I stroked her cold feet. Then her eye opened, and she lay there, looking up at me. Her eye closed again. Time passed. It opened again. DH passed me some chicken treats, and I offered her a mealworm. She ignored it.
We decided it would be best to put her in the dog crate. DH went off to get it from the shed. I continued stroking Tilda, and I stroked her feet again. They weren't cold now. She was trembling a bit. Perhaps my comforting strokes were not so comforting after all?
And then she tried to get up.
She managed to get upright, and stood on my leg, wobbling. I offered her the bowl of mealworms. and she ate some. DH came back with the crate, erected it, and I gently lifted her in to it. I hooked the bowl of treats on the side, and she started to eat them.
She's sitting quietly in the crate in the kitchen now, and we'll leave her there until tomorrow and see how things go.
Because she has always been a special needs chicken, I've always taken the time to tell Tilda how loved she is and how lucky we are to have her in our flock. Even so, I'm grateful that I have her, sentient, for a little bit longer (even if it's just a couple of hours) so I can tell her some more.