Death of a Humble Chicken

My thoughts about dead chickens mostly revolve around whether I want their deep-fried corpses from Bojangles or Chick-fil-a.  Ages ago, we learned that butchering your own chickens is for the birds, so to speak. It would take us hours to skin and pluck a single rooster, and the carcass was usually so stringy that it tasted more like my grandmother’s cross-stitch than her fried chicken.

After a few feeble attempts at self-reliance in the early years, we soon gave up and ceded control of our dietary poultry intake back to the fast food professionals. That was terrible news for my cholesterol, but really good news for the chickens on our farm, many of whom would live long and prosper in our pastures until a fox, hawk, or owl brought their prosperity to a quick and often violent end. 

But this past week we actually had a chicken die of old age. It was about as graceful and peaceful of a death as I can possibly imagine for a chicken. The chicken just became less and less mobile over a course of a couple months, but it never seemed to be in much pain. Mostly, it would just sit around and watch the other chickens coming and going, and strangely the other chickens didn’t bother it either (chickens can usually be quite cruel to other chickens that are showing weakness). Everyday, it would grow a little weaker until it finally stopped eating and drinking early this week. The eight-year-old hen just sat and watched, surrounded by her flock, until she finally closed her eyes and breathed her last. It reminded me a lot of the Dowager Countess’s death in Downton Abbey, a Hollywood ending for a humble chicken. In the end it got me thinking there are a lot worse ways to die than being at home surrounded by family, especially for a chicken. 

14 thoughts on “Death of a Humble Chicken

  1. Years ago I bought a chicken plucker machine to help in removing the feathers – we were actually raising meat chickens to eat. It seemed a good investment at the time, but it has been left idle for more than 6 years (I think it may have been used for about 30 chicken or so) so in the end not a good investment because of the cost.

    Some of our birds make it to old age but, not all.
    In fact just this morning as I was walking across the yard after just getting home from work I heard this terrible ruckus going on in the chicken yard. My first thought was one of the dogs had found her way in there. Nope… it was then I saw the fox. It saw me and disappeared over the fence, across the road, and into the woods. I suppose it was perfect timing, as no chickens were lost.
    But now… it’s only a matter of time. 😞

    1. Yeah, once that fox has honed in on them than it is just a matter of time. It amazes me how fast a fox can dispatch a chicken–a split second head shake and that chicken is gone. We’ll never recoup the cost we’ve put into chickens over the years between coup construction, feed costs, and losses to wildlife, but we do like having them around for the ambiance.

  2. We don’t eat our chickens. Many are adopted and we have a duty of care to let them have a lovely free ranging life. I lost one today, Odette, by the dreaded egg peritonitis, caused by breeding them to lay eggs all year. Sometimes mother nature isn’t allowed to take her course but then Doobie has got to 6 years, so it’s all a bit of luck too. When they reach this age or more, then yes I feel that it’s been a good life and proves there is more than fried chicken.

    1. We don’t eat our chickens any more – or rather we haven’t bought/raised any to eat in a number of years (since the time we had 30 just for the purpose). And we still don’t eat any of our feathered friends anyway.
      We raise the chickens just to be egg laying pest control.
      I’m down to 26 – 22 hens and 4 roosters. We lost a rooster recently. I don’t know what happened to him, he’s just gone. Perhaps that dang fox? The wife and I have decided to stop raising any more after this flock. Maybe we’ll start again after retirement.

      1. Same here,birds as friends, weeding, compost and eggs. I have a rooster batchelor flock. Very naughty boys, but love them. My other 3 roosters share a flock and I have a batchelor goose and duck flocks. It’s complicated at mating time and lots of hormones flying about.

  3. We purchase & raise our chickens to do what they are supposed to do: grow, lay eggs, eat bugs, add meat to our freezer. Sometimes one will click with me and get named, and on a rare occasion it may become a type of pet. Having chickens is a great thing to watch as they hunt our gardens. They are all locked up safe at night but roam free around the farm during the day. If you want tender meat, you must butcher younger – like no more than 6 mo. old. If the bird is older, best is to slow cooker or pressure cooker it as it will be MUCH tougher. We love having chickens for so many fun reasons (and they are fun to watch as they chase bugs, mice etc.), but we do have a self-sufficient farm going on, so things have to have more than one purpose. Guinea birds are FANTASTIC to keep bad bugs, snakes, mice away as they are very fast, but their meat is very tough. We don’t care much for duck meat, but their eggs are fantastic for noodles (much better than others we have tried). We have had some special chicken pets 1) Looked like a little owl – it was a rare breed mix we purchased, and she was the only one of her kind – loved her and she followed me all over the place. She got picked off by a hawk. 2) A Tan Polish hen got tangled up in chicken wire (have no clue how she did it) and ended up losing 1 leg. She became our front yard buddie (blame my sis on this one – she love that hen). Tending the front yard she would always come over sit down beside us and start talking. Pretty sure it was to tell us how her day or night went – LOL.

    1. We have few that always come up to us as if they want to tell us something, and one that is so tame that will jump in your lap. in my experience, chickens make good listeners

  4. We haven’t had any die of old age yet; in fact I wrote a post on that-just needs pics. We don’t like butchering ours either, but it happens when we can’t get rid of too many juvenile roos unfortunately.

    1. We’ve started taking our young roosters to the sale barn. The have a poultry sale twice a month, and we may get 6 or 7 dollars a piece, or enough to buy a Chic-Fil-a chicken sandwhich and I don’t have to do the butchering 😉

  5. Most of our chooks (Aussie for ‘chicken’) over the years have just slowed down and finally stopped. One doesn’t seem to have got the memo. A sprightly 11-year-old, now going on 12, she still bustles around the yard, lays eggs for a few months and CROWS if we’re tardy in letting her out of her pen. Doesn’t seem to bother her at all, being the last of the Mohicans (or Pekin bantams at any rate), possibly because her last companion was as absent as a chook can be while still drawing breath, blind and used to hang out with the flowerpots, taking them to be a flock of similarly static chooks, no doubt.

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