This has been a difficult post to write. I was shocked to find Amber dead this morning. At first light I could hear Peaches and Barley shouting. I couldn’t decide whether to go out and investigate but as they lay most days and had missed laying yesterday I decided that they were probably just about to lay. I recognise their shout as it’s quite distinct from the other girls and they always do a bit of shouting before laying. Being as it’s Saturday and we had no need to be up early I decided to stay in bed a bit longer.
When I went out to the run as soon as I was through the gate I saw a body just outside the pop hole. I knew it was Honey or Amber and as soon as I got close I realised it was Amber. She was on her back and her head feathers were raised so it seems that she had been dragged out of the coop. I realised that was what the shouting was about and felt bad that I hadn’t gone out although it wouldn’t have changed anything. There was a bare patch in the coop just inside the pop hole and she had some shavings on her so I felt sure she had died just inside the coop and been dragged out. She hadn’t been touched other than that.
I picked her up and there was no obvious sign of anything wrong with her. She has always been the runt of the litter with her small size, her little hump shaped back and her inability to lay eggs. We always knew she was vulnerable but lately she has looked in the peak of health. Even in death her face and comb were a lovely red colour.
I laid her on a sheet of paper (a catering sheet) in the shed while I did the morning poop pick. I sobbed as I worked, I just couldn’t help myself.
We have had her exactly two years this month which is longer than we thought we would have her. We thought we were going to lose her so many times in the past but recently she had been so well that this came as a total shock.
Yesterday Jackie and I collected some broccoli stalks from the allotment for both our flocks. I took some photos of the girls with the broccoli intending to take some more photos once the broccoli was stripped and use them in a post. Little did I know that they would be my last photos of Amber. Amber joined in with the broccoli enthusiastically and you can see from the photos that her comb is a lovely red colour.
Amber is on the left and Honey on the right. Amber has a lovely red comb and was enjoying the broccoli.
Amber had only laid one egg this year and that was five weeks ago. Despite that she would have a twirl round or sit a while in the nest box most mornings when I clean the coop. I know that whatever has caused her death it is probably to do with the little bump on her back and her egg laying problems. I know that the fact that she wasn’t laying eggs meant there was a problem and yet she was chatty and lively and seemed fine.
Yesterday she enjoyed the broccoli and when my husband swept up the dirt the girls had scratched onto the path and tipped it in their run she sprang to it to pick out the blossom petals from it. She also went running round the run with grapes at lunch time in the same way as she always did. She chatted, dust bathed, ran around and scratched in the dirt as usual. At bedtime she perched up next to Honey. When I put the girls to bed and lifted her down to the coop she was just the same as usual. In fact I thought how full all their crops were after their feast on the broccoli.
That’s why it was such a shock this morning. On the positive side she wasn’t unwell and didn’t suffer. She didn’t need any trips to the vet and I didn’t have any difficult decisions to make. She had a stress free life with no one pulling feathers and none of the feeling ill when laying eggs that she had had in the past and she had had a good last day feasting on broccoli.
We decided to bury her in the garden but our garden is so full that it’s difficult to find a space where a deep hole can be dug. I decided to lift the dandelions from the girl’s strip of garden next to the run and bury her there. My husband dug a really deep hole and I wrapped Amber in the sheet of paper. I then planted the dandelions over her. It seemed fitting somehow that she was underneath the dandelion patch and next to her flock.
My husband made a rough cross from our kindling. He said that although it was a bit crude it’s what they do in the westerns and I was quite touched.
Honey and Peaches are watching over her.
When I picked Amber up this morning Honey and Barley had a little spat. Amber had been next in line below Honey and I think that Honey was showing Barley that she is now next in line below her.
Each time I go into the run I always do a quick head count to see who is missing so that I can check who is laying. It has been weird today counting seven instead of eight. My husband said that he would miss her too.
She was so full of character, feisty, funny, chatty and so cute looking. Of the two of them Amber had a prettier face and shape than Honey and she had more personality.
I wanted to end with a few recent photos of Amber as my tribute to her.
Amber used to stand in the nest box like this nearly every morning while I poop picked.
Amber had such a sweet face and always looked so cute.
Amber liked to get on eye level with me and would jump on to the coop to chat to me.
I will really miss her.
That is such a nice tribute.
As you say she did not suffer and as far as you know was not in pain. You can’t ask more than that.
You are right, in the past she has had such a struggle to lay her eggs and it would have been awful to see her gradually go down hill whereas, as you saw, yesterday she looked her normal happy self. It was a shock because I wasn’t expecting it but it was the best way she could have gone. I will miss her cute little face though.
Oh, I’m so very sorry. It’s so tough losing those sweet ones. I hope it was quick and painless for her and that she’s in a happier place now. Sending big hugs.
Thank you. I am sure it must have been quick because she seemed right as rain at bedtime and gone in the morning which is why it was such a shock but of course I will never know what actually happened. At least she didn’t have a gradual decline. I do miss her sweet little face and endearing ways.
I’ve been enjoying your blog for a month or so now and it was a shock to read about Amber. She was a beautiful girl and I’m really sorry for your loss. But she’s gone in the way I think we would all hope for.
Thank you. You are so right that it was a shock but much better than seeing her suffer. It was sad this morning when I cleaned the coop and she wasn’t in the nest box watching me as usual.
Really sorry about Amber: it’s bad enough when you suspect it’s coming, but her problems seemed behind her, so it will have been a real shock. Thoughts are with you.
That is exactly it in a nutshell. Last year I was expecting it and wouldn’t have been surprised at all, but this year I have to say she looked better than she ever had and seemed in better health than ever before so it came as a complete and utter shock. I am still trying to take it in. Honey has followed my every move today and constantly making a little sad sound. I think she is missing her as am I.