Goodbye Yellow Beak

The worst part of raising animals is finding one dead, even if you may be expecting it. Our little flock of ladies had a bout with foul pox in the fall. Isn’t it ironic that humans get chicken pox and chickens get foul pox? From what I researched there are two kinds, wet pox and dry pox. Ours had the dry variety, which isn’t as horrible. Their combs (the red part on the top of the head) had a whitish tint with black spots. They were lethargic and weren’t eating much.

Before the cold weather hit, most of them pulled out of it. All except one. Their combs turned bright red again, their spunk was back. Except for the one my daughter named Yellow Beak, for obvious reasons. She was the nicest of the girls, the one that would meet Mia at the door and wanted petting. This chicken was loved.

I’d been concerned for the last week. The weather was cold, she wasn’t eating much and I could tell she was weak. But when I went to feed and water them this morning, I was still shocked to find her dead in the corner.

Thoughts of “what if” and “if only” won’t leave me alone. I had checked them a couple hours before nightfall, given them some bread. She was alive and moving, which leads me to believe she was too weak to follow the other hens to roost as they always do when the sun goes down. What if I had checked on them one more time after dark? I knew she wasn’t feeling well, but I didn’t know she was that weak. If I’d checked one more time, I would have seen her in that corner. I would have brought her inside and put her in a box with some straw. She would probably still be alive. There is no way of knowing for sure if she’d have made it through the night if she was warmer. There’s also no way of knowing that she wouldn’t have.

All I can do at this point is make sure this doesn’t happen again. As a farmer, I am responsible for the lives of these animals. When you raise animals for meat and you are the one to kill it and eat it, that animal died for a purpose. I call incidents like these “senseless deaths.” It’s not the first time I’ve experienced it.

I will be sure to check every night after the sun goes down that all the ladies have made it to the roost. “It’s just a chicken,” someone might say. But I say that every life is important. This is a mistake I will not repeat. She will not have died in vain because it made me grow. It will make me a better farmer. I will do everything in my power to make sure her death was not senseless. Proverbs 12:10a A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal.

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