The Unthinkable Happened

Precious Snowy Owl

Precious Snowy Owl with her ear tufts and fluffy beard

It is a regular summer morning. Just as FM is about to head to work, I check in on our free-ranging flock. There is a lot of noise this morning – with both roosters crowing and some of the hens begawking all at once. I peek inside the coop through the chicken door to see who is announcing their egg. There is Snowy Owl, lying on her back underneath the roost. I race around through the workshop to the other coop door. When I get to her, her feet and body are warm. Her eye focuses on me. I scoop her up, already awash in tears. Whatever happened JUST happened. Her neck is floppy and she doesn’t move as I cradle her in my arms. She dies soon after as FM and I are both trying to figure out what happened.

This is not the work of a predator. Initially, it looks like she broke her neck. With this new cockerel around, it isn’t unusual to have a panic in the coop and perhaps Snowy ran into a roost rung while trying to escape the chaos. But upon further inspection, there is no blood, no abrasions, nothing to indicate trauma like that. Could it have been a heart attack? A stroke? She was fine yesterday, free-ranging, laying her pretty blue egg and snuggling with me on the porch. How could she simply die this morning? Benedict is giving us a full report but, since we don’t speak ‘chicken’ and we have no webcam in the coop, we will never know.

The other hens are quiet now, perhaps confused or relieved. I leave Snowy Owl’s body on the porch for a while and each hen comes to inspect her – nudging her, growling low or circling her. Speedy sits beside her for a long while. This was her BFF, her partner in crime, her sidekick since they day they hatched. This death will be hard for me but it will be hardest for Speedy.

Speedy sat beside Snowy Owl's body for a long while this morning.

Speedy sat beside Snowy Owl’s body for a long while this morning. Inseparable since hatching, this will be a life-changer for Speedy.

Snowy Owl was my girl. She would come to wherever I was standing and wait at my feet for her daily scoop. She loved to burrow her head deep into my jacket or sweater and then snooze in the warm darkness she found there. But truly it is Speedy who has lost her Bestie and will have to learn to carry on without her.

Speedy was the brain of the pair. Snowy would follow Speedy's lead.

Speedy was the brain of the pair. Not-so-bright Snowy would follow Speedy’s lead.

Another BFF photo. These girls were made our flock LBGTQ-friendly.

Another BFF photo. These girls made our flock LBGTQ-friendly.

Even dust-bathing together - Snowy Owl below and Speedy above

They even dust-bathed together in the same hole under the porch steps most days, pecking and preening each other- Snowy Owl below and Speedy above.

Snowy Owl had congenital curly toes and a malformed thumb on her right foot. She could not hop down easily but managed pretty well all the same.

Snowy Owl had congenital curly toes and a malformed thumb on her right foot. She could not hop down easily but managed to get around pretty well all the same.

She loved both of us and was always willing to be scooped and held. FM's shoulder makes a fine roost.

She loved both of us and was always willing to be scooped and held. She even tolerated being pet by our two year old nephew. FM’s shoulder makes a fine roost.

We had a special connection and I will miss her terribly.

We had a special connection and I will miss her terribly. She was a consistent layer and a delicate soul who almost made it through her first year.

Keeping chickens gives me no end of pleasure but the pain of losing one is almost too much for me to bear.

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13 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Rae Walsh said,

    Oh my word…I’m sitting in tears at BC Service center as I await the next available representative to assist me. She may have to wipe my tears. Big sigh…. RG xo

    Sent from my hand held intergalactic communicating device.

    >

  2. 3

    Todd Gallagher said,

    Tragic. What a well written tribute to your bird. Sorry for your loss.

  3. 4

    Aaron Amar said,

    Awe…..I just met her last weekend. So sad and so sorry.

  4. 5

    Terry said,

    😦 Oh dear… I’m not sure how my emotions will be when I start tending my flock… so sad. She was a beauty…

    • 6

      Along A Path said,

      Your emotions will be those of love and admiration! You will love every one of your flock and you’ll do your best to keep them content and safe. Sadness comes with all emotional attachment.

  5. 7

    Ouch, what a loss. Chickens definitely have personalities and can be so affectionate. My heart goes out to you all, but especially to Speedy. May she accept and move on in her chicken way. RIP Snowy. And hugs to you all.

    • 8

      Along A Path said,

      Thanks Christi. Not knowing why she died really bothers me. If it was avoidable or preventable, I want to be pro-active. But it is nothing like your loss of 50 meat-birds. I still think about that tragedy.

      • 9

        I still think about it, too! June 27, 2013. Don’t know if I’ll ever get over it completely. The weasel wipeout. Thank you for remembering. Not knowing why Snowy Owl died is hard, too. You are such a good chicken mama, though!

  6. 10

    […] Source: The Unthinkable Happened | along a rural path […]

  7. 11

    Jenn said,

    I am so sorry for your loss. Hugs to you, FM, and Speedy.

  8. 12

    Kelly said,

    What breed was Jocky?


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