I knew it was coming. When I found her two days ago, hunched over and pecking listlessly at the wall, I knew her sickness was upon her again, her lower abdomen flabby and distended. When this happened for the first time in August, I feared that scourge of good layers—egg binding. I soaked her in a warm bath, dried her off, and provided that chicken panacea: warmth and isolation. In just 24 hours she was looking perky and ready to rejoin the flock.
But this time it was different. The temperature has stayed well below freezing for about a week, so there was no way I could bathe her. Still, I put her in a cardboard box with the top open and a heat lamp suspended over it. But it didn\’t help. Yesterday, when I offered her water, she drank a couple of drops, just to please me. This morning, she didn\’t drink at all. When I went to close the coop doors for the night, I knew what I would find.
I turned off the heat lamp and carried the box into the feed room, so as not to upset the rest of the chickens.
Rest in peace, red hen. You were a good and faithful layer. We made your big brown eggs into omelettes, gave them to the food bank, fed them to the dogs. Your last, super-sized egg is in our fridge right now. Tomorrow we will take you into the woods, and in the night the red fox will come—but you will not mind this—and carry you to his den. His wife needs to build up her reserves, to last through the winter and make babies in the spring. You will be their Thanksgiving dinner.