Thursday, August 5, 2004

Wild Child Passes

Well, we have lost another one.

This time it was our flock's Head Hen, a lovely Silver Laced Wyandotte with the clunky and graceless name of Wild Child. She gained that name nearly ten years ago when we brought her and her two sisters home from the feed store. Then they were tiny, day and a half old baby chicks with their egg tooth still attached. For those that don't know, on birds the egg tooth is the small, hard tip of their beaks that assists them in breaking out of their shells when they hatch. It falls off within the first three days of life.

The reason she was named Wild Child was because we had given the three chicks temporary names to help us tell the new arrivals apart from each other. We figured that we would come up with real names for the chicks shortly. 'Wild Child' was what we called her since she was a very boisterous chick, running around and jumping on her sisters' heads when they weren't looking.

Unfortunately for her, the name stuck. So Wild Child she became for good and all.

Wild Child naturally took on the position of Head Hen--she can peck everyone else but no one pecks her, she is leader of the flock. She is the one in my previous posts that climbed up on top of the coop, couldn't get down and had to call us out in the yard to rescue her. She was the one who would call out and alert us to trouble in the yard.

The day before yesterday we noticed that Wild Child was refusing food and simply standing, eyes closed, in the shade under her favorite bush. Yesterday was the same, so we knew that something was up and strongly suspected that she was making her exit. She wasn't sick, just old.

I brought her into the house around 3PM and offered her a small dish of goodies, which she looked at but politely shook her head, refusing. Now when a chicken won't eat, something is wrong. Her body temperature had also fallen. I wrapped her in a bath towel and sat with her on my lap for the next 5 1/2 hours, gently stroking her head and talking to her as she slept. I had mixed up a small amount of baby bird handfeeding formula with some other things, and this I gave her with an eyedropper every 45 minutes to keep her comfortable and hydrated. Around 7PM I had gotten up to stretch my legs and as I walked by the back door, I noticed that every single chicken of our flock had crammed themselves up onto the back porch, something they had never done.  Jack, our Head Roo, was in front, looking at me and waiting.  I knew what they wanted and opened the back door so that they could come in and visit Wild Child, which they did quietly and one at a time before filing out again.

Over the final several hours Wild Child got quieter and quieter and we knew the time was near. Finally it was 8PM and my daughter's bedtime. She gently petted Wild Child and told her goodnight and goodbye.

Not two minutes later Wild Child gave a single flap of her wings and died.

We'll miss her. Today the other chickens are wandering about looking lost, Jack is especially distressed. She would have been 10 years old this coming April and was the cornerstone, guardian, mother, flock representative, disciplinarian and matriarch of the flock. She led the group out of the coop in the morning and called them to roost in the evening.

When you have a pet for that many years they are a member of your family, no matter what kind of animal they are. They become as much a part as your personality and entangled in your family history as any other member of your household.

Our most affectionate farewell to Wild Child.

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