Today I write about one of my flock. Her name is Arabella. She’s a white silkie and was hatched October 13th, 2011.
About sixteen months ago I started down a path. Knowing next to nothing of chicken rearing, I built a Coop, built a Run, and purchased six chicks, each two days old. And every day since has been a crash-course on everything chicken. I’ve learned so much, but I realize I know only a handful of what I truly need to know.
|Arabella and Little Jo.
Yesterday, while filling my girls’ feeder and freshening their water, I treated my flock to a few handfuls of mealworms, their favorite treat. Five of the six came running. Peck-peck-pecking at the ground. And that happy sound that only Chicken Owners can understand filled the silence. But one girl was missing: Arabella, my often-broody, somewhat shy White Silkie. I peered into the small door of Coopenhagen (as my Coop has come to be known) and saw her lying in the straw.
It only took a moment to realize what the situation was. Arabella, at some point in the past twelve hours or so, had passed away. And there she was, still fluffy as ever. But gone.
|Arabella and her flock
enjoying a veggie sub.
A shock went through me as I went to tell my wife. And then, once that was done, I had to think of anything and everything that might have caused Arabella’s passing.
On our several-times-weekly free-range around the yard, Arabella would stay back to herself, sometimes not even leaving the Run. But that didn’t stand out, as she was the broody one of the bunch. Then, three days ago I noticed she was roosting on the lower-most roost by herself when the hens were put to bed. And, after finding her barely-cold body in the straw, I noticed several – more than several – white silkie feathers scattered around the run.
|White. Fluffy. Relaxed.
None of this really tells me anything, to be honest. She was eating and drinking. At least when the others were free-ranging. And, being broody more-than-not, she kept to herself quite a bit. As for the feathers in the run, I assumed they are from her summer molt.
Yes, there's the possibility of the others bullying her. It happens even in established flocks. And Arabella was at the bottom of the pecking order, being the smallest and most timid of the group. But she had no bruises or cuts or scrapes or any evidence of being pushed around. At least none that I could see.
So the question remains: What happened to Arabella?
|Mad as a wet hen.
I will never know for sure.
What I do know is she was a sweet, funny girl who made me smile, not only because she ran in that special sort of silkie-way, or scratched for grit like only she could, or devoured mealworms in a fluffy-white blur. But because she was a truly wonderful hen. She was not only a part of my flock. She was a part of my family. Like my dog. Or my two cats. And after the sixteen or so months spent with her, she captured my heart.
We miss you already, Arabella. Rest in Peace.
October 13th 2011 to March 29th 2013