So among all the fun and games of the last month (don't ask. Just... don't...), on monday this week I had to take Lottie, one of our Silky chickens, to the vet.
And, trust me, you haven't lived until you've sat in the waiting room of your local veterinary hospital, holding a box with a fluffy looking chicken in it on your lap, surrounded by sniggering dog and cat owners.
Lottie was our biggest, fattest, oldest chicken. Though not that old - she was only about 10 weeks when we got her, a couple of months ago. She was the first to start laying, and had been contentiously producing 6 eggs per week for the last three weeks or so. Until last Thursday, when she went off the lay, and started spending all day flopped in her nesting box. Which was decidedly unlike her.*
My first thought was that she was egg-bound, though the symptoms didn't quite fit. Either way, on Saturday I took her to the vet, who had a look, found no egg, and said to keep an eye on her and bring her back on Monday morning if she didn't come good.
And, sadly, she didn't.
So monday morning, bright and early, I popped her back in her box and we toddled back over to the vet, who gave poor Lottie another good going over, and again found no evidence of an egg. What she did find, sadly, was a large tumor growing in Lottie's abdomen. Apparently it's a problem that this particular breed are genetically disposed to. We didn't know that at the time.
So there was, sadly, nothing for it. Lottie didn't come home from the vet.
Which, as you can imagine, was quite upsetting for all of us. Mainly because we're one of those silly families who does things like giving their chickens names and treating them like pets. Still, you have to be pragmatic about these things. That's life, after all.
And, short though it was, Lottie did at least have a good life. She wandered freely around the yard with her sisters, tormenting our dog on her running lead and stripping bare our corn crop. She picked aphids off the roses, fertilised the garden beds (and the path, and the back steps...), and gave me an excuse to buy myself new gumboots.
And, importantly, she reminded Min and I about the value of food. It's been good, owning chickens, and seeing them as real animals. It's made us re-assess our spending habits when it comes to meat, and think a lot more closely about the ethics of what we use and what we waste. It's connected us a little more closely some of the realities of life that modern life can make us forget or overlook.
When I was 19, I was convinced that by the time I turned 40, I'd be living somewhere like London or New York. I'd be wealthy. I'd be setting the world on fire.
As it turned out, I spent the last day of my 30's, a week or so back, here in Canberra cleaning out the chicken coop, and then driving out with my wife and son to the Collector Pumpkin Festival. And, to be honest, it was the perfect end to my third decade. I wouldn't have had it any other way. It turns out that, for me, the best way to turn 40 was to do it with chickens. And pumpkins. Sure, it's not where I imagined myself when I was in my 20's - it's so much better. And Lottie and her three siblings are part of that.
Later this year, we're going to get a replacement chicken. We're thinking of calling her Lottie 2.
That's for later, though.
Have a good week, everyone.
*Yes. Chickens have personalities. I was surprised to learn it, too.