Some of you know that MT and I have chickens and that they've brought great joy and hilarity to our lives the last 5 years. They're the first chickens either of us have ever owned so it's been a steep learning curve, but I think, based on the overall general good health of the girls, we've done a pretty good job.
So it was a shock last weekend to lose one of our chooks. Princess Parmigiana (Princess, or Parma, for short) had been looking a bit listless the previous week; not blatantly unwell, but acting even more introverted than usual; she's never let us get close to her, making it harder to tell if she was sick. We were concerned, but not panicked, and decided to haul her to a poultry vet. An extraordinarily nice man, who gently broke the news that she had a tumour that had progressed beyond the point where surgery would have been successful. (I never considered that surgery on poultry was a thing, btw.)
MT and I don't see our chickens as egg machines; they're ours for the long haul, eggs or no eggs. But they're chickens; not cats or dogs you hold, play, and develop emotional bonds with. Not in an obvious way. So the impact of this news about Parma broadsided us. Neither of us were prepared for how sad we were to lose her. Aloof she may have been, but she played an undeniable role in our chicken family dynamics.
As if we weren't already weepy enough, we came home to discover that chickens grieve. Eggy and Henri looked terrified and confused, staying clumped together, not uttering so much as a bwark between them. Healthy, but not understanding where their coop mate went. We had no plans to bring another chicken in, but after 3 days of depressed chickens we re-evaluated. The vet recommended we get two more instead of just one, since integration would be easier (strength in numbers).
After researching our area, we had a choice: we could get two more right now, or we'd have to wait several more months before anyone had any chickens old enough for us. So today we brought home Auburn and Molly (I'm not sold on these names, btw), two French Black Copper Marans.
They're young yet - only about 18 weeks old, so they have more filling out to do, both in size and feathers, and their combs haven't fully formed or gone red (a puberty thing). Auburn's body feathers (she's in front, I think) have more brown in them and we're hoping as she gets older this will become more pronounced, otherwise we're never going to be able to tell them apart.
The bad news is that MT and I still feel Princess Parma's absence, but the good news is that Eggy and Henri are too busy looking at Auburn and Molly thinking WTF? to be depressed any longer. There's something to be said for indignation in the grieving process. ;-)