RIP Ruthie, Our Hackly New Hampshire Red
Abigail Black/Mindwatering 07/29/2020
Ruth was a peculiar sort. She was of average size for a New Hampshire Red, but made up for it in weight. In her beginning year, she despised being picked up unless she was absolutely certain she was being picked up correctly. A task that we tried to do perfectly, but her preferences seemed to change every time.
In the past year, she mellowed a bit. She wouldn't come running when we called (unless treats were at hand), and gave us a merry chase before she allowed us to catch her. When she gave up, she would hunker down in a crouch, and "bok bok grrr" until we put her down again. Once her feet touched the ground, she puffed up into a ball as if our very touch was irritating.
But she was a good hen. She rarely engaged in the pecking order skuffles, and established herself in the lower-middle ranks. The chickens she hung out with the most were Joan and Mary, although she occasionally snuck into Big Twin's clique for choice snacks. Ruth was not very fond of heights, rarely being seen on the higher perches in the run, yet fought vigilantly for a spot on the upper roost at night.
Last autumn, we were doing a casual check on the chickens when it was discovered that Ruth had a large yellow glob attached to her vent, which was partially prolapsed. The vent lining had snagged the glob on its way out, leaving it hanging down her butt. We put her in a tub of warm water to loosen the mass and spent the better part of an hour gradually loosening the gunk until it came off, and her prolapse solved itself, immediately sucking itself back into her body.
The glob turned out to be a sizable lash egg, an infection. While perhaps painful to Ruth and an inconvenience to us, the lash egg still being attached to the chicken was a good thing, as most lash eggs were laid like normal eggs and it was a guessing game as to who laid it. We did the research as to what to do, then turned Ruth loose.
The websites we looked at tell that hens that get lash egg infections don't last longer than six months. A few weeks later, she was doing just fine. It eventually passed our minds.
Last week, we noticed that Ruth was acting lethargic. Her comb was limp and pale, and wasn't eating much. Since the summer was pretty hot, we attributed it to dehydration. We put out a fan to blow air into the run, which was a hit with the hens. We resolved to keep an eye on Ruth, but were distracted by Mary, who was recovering from a second, worse, case of sour crop, and Joan, who was recovering from an impacted crop surgery.
A few days ago, we brought Ruth inside the house. She was pale, and weak. She'd lost weight and we could feel the entirity of her keel bone, and hips. She couldn't jump into the coop for the night, leaving her trapped outside. She couldn't even go up five inches to get out of the run during free range. When we helped her out, she would find a nice, sheltered shady spot to sit and doze off.
Once inside, she barely drank, and didn't eat. She plopped down to sleep where she stood. When we held her, she didn't do anything but sleep. She barely vocalized. She was alert only in name, too weak to keep her eyes open for long. We remembered the lash egg, and knew it was a matter of time. We started talking about the most mericful ways to cull her, but held out hope that she would miraculously recover.
This morrning, she passed away. She was soon buried with her fallen sisters in the backyard, her grave marked with a concrete disc. She died knowing she was loved, and we will miss her.