Saturday, April 10, 2010

Another One Is Making A Graceful Exit...

This time it's Juliette. Here she is in 2002, the day we first got her. 

She was a bit skinny, but filled out nicely to a glowingly healthy little girl. Here she is again, three years later.

Juliette is a VERY tiny, Old English Bantam hen that we rescued back in 2002, along with Houdini (who passed away recently) from a feed store that was a Hell for chickens. We'd stopped by the place in the middle of a week-long, 100 degree heat wave and found ALL of the chickens there with empty food and water dishes at 1PM--and the water dishes were hours old, bone dry. The lone teenage clerk was chatting on the phone, so we grabbed a couple of the bottled waters they were selling at $1.00 a pop and went around with them ourselves, filling up the chickens' water dishes. The poor birds were scrambling to GUZZLE the water out of the bottles before it even hit the dishes, poor things. We came home with Juliette and Houdini that day, and reported the feed store. Both she and Houdini were adults at that time, so Juliette is at least 9 years old, possibly more. Both of them were VERY wild and hated humans, so we had our work cut out for us--over the years, if we had to grab them for some reason, they would struggle and scream like they were dying. Juliette was especially bad.

About a year ago Juliette suddenly decided that she really LIKED us, and would hang out by the house, even allowing me to lean down and pet her! She'd talk and chirp happily the whole time, making no attempt at all to walk away. She would even calmly walk into the house to tool around for a bit and visit. It's like she just suddenly decided that we were OK after all.

When chickens get very old but are healthy, what usually happens is that their internal organs begin to fail. When I opened the coop this morning, Juliette was the last one out, waddling tiredly out to stand next to me at the door. I picked her up and felt the tell-tale abdominal bulge that meant she was retaining fluid, and knew her liver must be failing. The same thing happened to Houdini towards the end of last year, and our vet confirmed it and put her on Lasix to help her pass the fluid and be more comfortable until she went. It worked quite well and Houdini passed quietly on New Year's Eve.

So we brought Juliette in and gave her a dose of Lasix (we were lucky enough to have a few pills on hand) and a bunch of mealworms. She appreciated the bugs but not the icky pill.

We put her back outside with her flock, but J. brought her in this afternoon--she had gone off into a corner of the yard but chirped at him in such a way that sounded like she was scared. So he brought her in to hold her and keep her company, petting her and offering her tidbits that she didn't have to compete for with the other chickens. We're going to keep her in overnight so she doesn't have to compete for a roosting spot or have to jump up onto a roost.

So right now she's dozing in a sunny spot by the back door, and she's got a little chicken buffet thing going with chicken food, water, corn on the cob kernels, mashed strawberry and hard boiled egg yolk. When dusk falls we'll make her a comfy littke chicken bed and place her in the living room so she can watch TV and have company.

We don't know how much longer she'll be with us--heck, it could be anywhere from hours to months. But we'll do our best to make her happy and try to make up for her time in Chicken Hell at the hands of humans.

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