One last promenade
atop the coop before
a long solstice night.
Margaret, Anne, and Victoria in better days
Christmas week we lost another chicken, the second in 2015 (we lost Victoria in February). Poor little Anne had been showing some oddities throughout the year but in December she started showing more specific symptoms (lack of appetite, lethargy, etc.), and just before solstice we took her to the vet at NC State. We weren’t willing to do extensive tests and treatment, and the vet said even with them, Anne probably had something serious (e.g., cancer rather something simple like worms).
We decided to euthanize her and have an autopsy done. Preliminary results suggested Marek’s, which is a viral disease chickens are susceptible to. While our chickens were vaccinated for Marek’s, chances are the vaccination wears off at some point (it probably varies by breed). In Anne’s case, the disease resulted in tumors all over her insides that compressed her egg-laying apparatus as well as her GI tract.
We were relieved that the autopsy results showed she had something wrong that we couldn’t have prevented. (We want to be good chickenparents!) And we felt comfortable that we made the right decision about euthanization. As a side benefit, the NC State vet program lets the veterinary students do the autopsies as part of their studies; it made us happy to contribute in that way too.
The photos on this page are not recent. As the chickens have aged, they’ve been less interested in jumping up to the heights. (Leave that for the little chirps!) But shortly before Anne got sick she started flapping up to the top of the coop again. Margaret would follow sometimes, but she is bigger and ungainlier than Anne was, so struggled to get her heft up there. When the chickens jump up to the coop (or chair or bench), we always imagine they are saying, “I like to be tall, Chickenmama! I like to see everything, Chickenpapa!” I guess she wanted one last look before the dark night came.
We miss you, little Annabel! Bye-bye!
Death relived the race, flying
first to tragedy, next to context.
Imagine a patch, a circle with people
and flowers. Death did something good—
offered help, gave gentle assignments.
But Nature answered with violence quickly.
You wouldn’t believe the block.
So that’s the easy-reading version. A blackout poem is where you take an article (newspaper, magazine, etc.) and black out all the words except the ones you want to keep. The spacing of the words is part of the challenge. Below is a version that more closely mimics the spacing in the article this poem came from. It gets messy to read because WordPress doesn’t allow very good control of spacing (in the context of poetry).
first to tragedy
a patch a circle with
death did something
you wouldn’t believe
Mild winter earth is
easy to dig; maple and
azalea bush wait.
Victoria’s Stone by Azalea & Japanese Maple
We lost our first chicken this past weekend. She’d been noticeably unwell since about Thanksgiving, but we think her condition had been going on for at least a year, when she started drinking a lot of water and laying peewee eggs. We treated her for the typical parasites and infections one finds in backyard chickens, but the other two girls had no symptoms, so we weren’t surprised that she didn’t really improve. We finally took her to the vet, who said it was something more serious, e.g., ovarian cancer, heart disease, kidney disease. We weren’t going to spend the $$ to get a full diagnosis because we knew we weren’t going to treat her beyond offering comfort.
So, for the past couple weeks she lived in the garage (actually on and off for the past couple months). She didn’t seem like she was in pain, but she couldn’t eat much and didn’t seem to be getting nutrients from what she did eat. She just got weaker and quieter. She finally died Saturday. We were glad to be home with her when it happened, and we found a nice spot to bury her in the garden.
She was our little sweetie! Goodbye, Victoria!
Victoria, Our First Chicken
put your affairs in order.
Fall is on the way.
Haiku Heights is hosting The September Heights, a haiku-a-day challenge with a daily word prompt to be used as a theme and/or in the haiku. Today’s word is “loneliness.” Click through to check out more haiku or to add your own.
Past the bodies of the dead when we come down,
eyes frozen open
or frozen shut. Did they struggle or
sleep to death?
Past the near-dead calling in muted tongues,
holding out waxy hands,
reaching for mercy
They knew the risk. They made
the granular calculations balancing air
and weight and time, sitting
on the thread between majesty
and despair. They knew the price of failure—
wandering in the breathless cold,
drained in the middle of the death zone,
like opening a vein, fading out
before their lives were
Holy Mother, hear our prayer.