Full cycle

Missy, one of my Delaware pullets, died. I’m not certain what happened, but I discovered her dead and stiff this morning while I was letting the chickens out of their coops. She was laying on her side, halfway in and halfway out of the coop door.

That detail distracted me for a moment, as I KNOW I shut the doors on the coops last night. It’s possible I didn’t push the door hard enough to lock it, I guess, and the others pushed the door open so they get into the run. There’s no way Missy froze to death as it the temps were actually rising last night.

I examined her body closely looking for some sort of clue as to why she had died. I didn’t see any marks on her, nor did I see anything that looked like mites or parasites had been at work. She was fleshed out well, and otherwise looked very robust.

Yesterday I had to leave for work exceptionally early (just after 6 AM) and by the time I came home it was dark and all the chickens were inside their coops. I therefore had no time to observe behavior yesterday, although I had been home the day before and didn’t see anything unusual.

Missy was a 23 week old pullet. She hadn’t started laying yet, and her comb and wattles were barely developed. (She seemed to be lagging as the comb and wattles on the other Delaware pullet, Speedy, are much more developed.) I doubt she was eggbound, but the only explanation I can come up with is that she had some sort of impaction. As I looked at her vent, I could see some fecal material lodged there and it looked like the flesh surrounding it was much too reddish: as if the inner tissue was exposed and torn.

As a days old chick, Missy earned her name due to the fact that she suffered from “pasting up,” a potentially deadly problem that can occur in chicks where fecal material gets stuck around the vent and plugs them up. The solution is to monitor a chick with this condition closely and manually clear away the droppings from the vent whenever they start to accumulate. I started calling her Miss Poopy Butt, which I shortened to Missy as she matured and I could stop wiping her bottom all the time. It almost seems as if she was meant to go this way.

I didn’t see Missy hatch, but I got her when she was one day old. So now I feel like I’ve experienced nearly the full cycle of chicken life: as a chick, as a pullet, as a hen, and now, at death.

Rest in peace, Missy. I tried to give you the good life, and I think I succeeded. I’ll miss you.

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