Ticker died today. I have been putting so much effort into identifying a diagnosis and treating her accordingly. I would observe and examine her, then try something new, and observe and examine again. What was happening aside from the ascites? Was it internal laying? Impacted crop or gizzard? Perforated intestine? Coccidiosis? Cancer?
She had been doing well. Her swollen belly went down and I thought she was on the road to recovery. She was eating and talking. Ticker continued to spend her time in a crate in our laundry room and I wanted so much to bring her outdoors during the day last week, but it was so cold and I knew it would set her back. So she stayed inside. Finally the weather warmed up (if you consider 20 degrees warm), and I brought her out a few days ago. Chickens have a distinct social order, called the pecking order. The one who is at the top gets to peck everyone below them, and down it goes until there is one at the bottom who has no right to peck anyone. I have heard of flocks where the lowest hens on the pecking order are mercilessly attacked on a daily basis. My hens have never fought and don’t peck each other, except to keep each other in line. There is usually no violence or any physical disputes in the henhouse.
Ticker has always been near the top of the pecking order. When I brought her out this week, she knew her place had changed. Fuzzybottom, who has always been under Ticker, went after her with gusto. It got scary and I broke it up a few times. Ticker cut Fuzzy’s skin and it started to bleed, which worried me because chickens love to peck at blood. Thankfully Fuzzy’s wound cleared up quickly. The rest of the chickens who were either above Ticker or on par with her in the pecking order came over to scold her for being away. Each took their turn with her, some more physical than others. Blue and Fae, our nicest hens, gave her gentle pecks on the head as if to say, “Shame on you for leaving us for so long.”
Ticker moved to a corner and hunched up, looking uncomfortable. I brought her back inside. After that she stopped eating and drinking. She had been doing so well in that department until her outing. I think she realized she would never be able to go outside again and be a healthy, happy hen. She made a conscious choice to end her life.
I knew it was time for her to go, and I appreciated how clearly she communicated it. I didn’t have the heart to watch her waste away for days, and I didn’t have the heart to euthanize her myself (I still need to learn how to do it). I made an appointment at the county animal shelter to have her put to sleep. We are so fortunate that the good people at the animal shelter were able to do the deed quickly and for not a lot of money.
She stopped eating on Sunday night and I brought her to be euthanized this morning. She was ready. She was such a good chicken, one of our favorites. The girls and I have cried while we said our many goodbyes to her this week. We loved her crooked comb, her chattiness, per inquisitive attitude, and her ability to connect with us.
It’s sad when to lose a pet.