We lost another one of the good ones this week, one of my favorite ladies, Squeeky. Although all of the hens come running over to me when I go up to the chicken yard with breakfast, it seemed like she always had a special greeting for me. While the rest of the ladies would immediately start gobbling up their breakfast, she seemed more interested in getting a bit of attention from me than in joining the fray of pecking chickens squabbling over breakfast. She was one of my best Lap Chickens, and when I would go up to the chicken yard in the afternoons and sit down quietly for a few minutes to observe how everyone was doing, Squeeky would almost always come over to me and sit in my lap. She didn’t need to be bribed over with treats to let me pet her like some of the more independent chickens, she just really seemed to enjoy the attention. I liked Squeeky and her two BFFs, Squeeky2 and Twitchy so much that I tried to breed them with Reuben last year so that I would have more of these beautiful ladies that laid such lovely large brown eggs, but that unfortunately did not go as planned.
I had noticed that Squeeky did not seem to be feeling well for a couple of weeks. At this time of year, after taking the winter off from laying, the egg laying season begins again. For hens that are healthy and that have no reproductive disorders, they go about their business as usual, busily scratching and pecking about the yard until nature calls and they need to make a trip to the nest box to lay their egg. For a hen that has trouble in the egg laying department, their behavior is different and they don’t have the same spring in their step as they did before the onset of egg laying season. This was the case for Squeeky, and she had been moving a bit slowly lately and didn’t have much of an appetite. I had also noticed a small bulge near her vent (where the egg comes out) and it was plucked bare of feathers as if something was bothering her down there. I had been a bit worried about her and was keeping a close watch on her.
A couple of days ago I gave the ladies some corn scratch as a treat, one of their favorites, and Squeeky indulged herself, perhaps a bit too much. Shortly after treat time, I heard Squeeky making the high pitched hiccup/sneeze type noise they make when they are trying to dislodge some food from their throat. Usually, it only takes a few times for a chicken to dislodge whatever is stuck, but poor Squeeky could not dislodge it and her hiccups/sneezes kept getting more and more violent, and I could tell she was choking and was in distress. I tried in vain to help her by tapping her on the back a few times and screamed frantically across the farm for my husband to come help. We did not know how to help her, but we tried everything we could think of to no avail. She was gone in a matter of minutes. It was a horrible, sad thing to see, and made worse by the feeling of helplessness to do anything to prevent it.
There is a bit of a silver lining to the story. After she passed, we decided to do a necropsy to see if she was suffering from internal laying as I suspected. We felt her abdomen and instead of feeling firm and fleshy as it would in a healthy chicken, hers felt squishy like it was full of fluid. We made a small incision in her abdomen, and fluid and some egg yolk came out. I won’t go into further detail, but we examined her a bit further, and it did look like she was suffering from internal laying, which is fatal and is usually a long slow wasting away disease, so I guess it was probably better that she went now rather than suffering for many weeks to come. Over the years we’ve lost several of our ladies, and it does get a bit easier each time we have to say goodbye. This was such a sudden passing of Squeeky, and it was made worse by the fact that I did not have the opportunity to prepare myself for her passing or to give her a proper goodbye. Rest in peace, Squeeky, thank you for brightening my days with your cute chicken ways.