Thursday, 24 July 2014

Goodbye Tildy

Matilda, my house hen, died this morning. She was 4 years, 4 months old.

She was hybrid, designed for a life expectancy of less than 2 years. Originally bred as a table bird, she just had something about her. She was always interested in what we were doing and, right from when she was a chick, she was always happy to be picked up and petted.  She had a bit of a disability - her wing was slightly wrong. We became so attached to her, that we just couldn't cull her, so we kept her as a pet.

She died once before, December 2012.  I saw it happen, rushed out and brought her in. She revived, and we kept her in the kitchen so she could die peacefully and in her own time.

Instead of passing away peacefully, she rallied. Attempts over the next few weeks to put her back with the others failed. We didn't think she'd survive for long, so we carried on letting her live in the kitchen, with her own little pied a terre. She pottered around the kitchen during the day, taking herself to bed at night.  Sometimes she went out for a bit, but often just let herself back in again.

Baby Tilda
Tilda in her night time pied-a-terre
We adapted to having a house hen, she became one of the family, and we adjusted our lives to take into account her needs. As soon as we came in, we'd check on Tilda and say hello, and have a chat. She was always interested in whatever we were doing .

For the first 6 months, she showed no interest in going to live outside. She had free access to the outside, the door was open (except when it was raining), and she came and went as she pleased.  She always chose to come in.

In the Summer of 2013, she decided she wanted to try and live with her hatch mates again, despite their contribution to her earlier death.  They didn't want her, but she persisted.. It took several attempts by her (against our advice, after the first time ended in another collapse), but she was determined.   She managed to live outside with them until December 2013 when they turned on her again and she collapsed once more.

Tilda making herself at home

She came back into the house, and revived. She again lived in the kitchen (with free access to outside) since then.  I used to put her in the Other Girls run (with the Other Girls locked out) so she could dustbathe (see video).
Wandering around the garden

She "wasn't quite right" for the entire 19 months she lived indoors with is,  That's why the others turned on her in the first place. However, she ate and drank and chirruped and chatted,  and seemed quite happy.  Her tail was usually up, she was bright eyed.

If she fancied  a snackerel, and whatever she fancied hadn't already been provided, she'd call us into the kitchen.

It was always easy to tell what she wanted.  When she ate yoghurt she ended up smacking her beak together.  When she wanted yoghurt, she just made the eating-yoghurt face and sounds, and I would put some fresh down for her.

Having a house chook long ago stopped seeming odd.

With summer approaching, we upgraded the spare/hospital Go so that Tilda could  stay outside at night if she chose to. It also meant that she could stay outside during the day, rather than having to come back into the kitchen if we were going out.   To our surprise, Tilda always chose to come back in to the kitchen at night
  She slowed down a lot over the last month, but was eating, drinking, and pooing  normally (normally for Tilda, anyway).

Yesterday when she came in, she wasn't right. She was very hot.  I treated her for heatstroke,  spent a lot of time getting water and cucumber in to her, gave her some Nutridrops.  She didn't fight the Nutridrops, and she wasn't interested in small pieces of grape,  so I had an inkling that this might be "It"  She has had a couple of episodes before  and she has recovered, so I hoped this would be like that - a drama followed by a recovery.

This morning, she wasn't interested in anything to eat, not even yoghurt. Not even a grape shard.   She took herself outside without waiting for the offer of a lift down the step (another rarity,) and sat under the shade of the strawberry planter. I put her food, water, yoghurt and cucumber out, but she didn't even look at it. I noticed that her comb was a little purple.It didn't bode well.
I came back a little while later, and sat on the ground with her while she had her death throes. It was over quickly.  I'm happy that she didn't suffer, wasting away over days. I know she had a good life, much longer than she should have.

She was much loved, and she will be sorely missed. The kitchen doesn't look right without her in it.
When she was still welcome in the flock.

My little girl.

(video of Tilda dustbathing)


  1. Oh Hazel I am so sorry :( But as you say she had a (far longer than expected) very good life with you.

    She has gone to join Tiny Hen, Titch, Yarrow, Marjoram, Ginger and Cathy - all ginger hybrids and former house hens of mine - maybe they are all in a nice kitchen somewhere waiting for her...with a bowl of yoghurt.

  2. Thank you Sarah. I like the thought of Tilda with some other house hens in a nice warm kitchen with a bowl of yoghurt. :-)