Sunday, September 15, 2013

Expiry Date

“Important News”, I typed in an email on Monday: “Victoria has laid an egg!”

It had been a long time between green eggs, the kind produced by Araucana chickens. And as this little grey hen of mine was four years old, near the end of egg-bearing age, the resumption of her cycle after winter was real cause for celebration.

In the past, her efforts to deliver have appeared hazardous to her health. This week, however, she seemed to take laying in her stride, and gave me nearly as many eggs as her most productive flockmate – Vanessa, who is younger and from the more ‘commercial’ Leghorn breed. Between times Victoria was, as always, feisty (though quiet) and a determined forager of greens.

Today, Saturday, it was after 9am when I wandered out to the girls in a leisurely manner. Four stopped their foraging to see if I’d brought new treats; the fifth, Victoria, remained under the chookhouse.

It wasn’t the usual time for a rest. On getting closer I could see she was in an unseemly heap, struggling to breathe. She couldn’t stand. 

So I scooped her up, and we went to the vet. Not my usual, who as well as being the nearest is very good, but another decent clinic quite close by that has a “come right away” option for emergencies, as well as avian expertise.

I’d not met the locum before but she and I agreed immediately that nothing could be done. Nothing humane, anyway, save euthanasia. Uneasy at my haste, I rechecked with her, only to regret it. Listening to the careful and comprehensive rationale was taking time that only prolonged Victoria
’s suffering. I signed her life away.

So suddenly my little grey hen is no more. But when I returned to the chicken run, replenished the feed and – by habit – checked the nesting house, I found she’d left something there: a green egg, her last, laid this morning.

Vale Victoria.

Images, taken in the last month (some last week): perching for pleasure; foraging (video); eggs by Alice, Victoria and Vanessa; Victoria at rest with Emmeline and Vanessa; bossing Alice (right) and Henemoa; and scratching about. 

For more information about Victoria and other Araucanas, see my post
The Queen, the Bearded Lady and the Easter Egg Chicken

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