Life and Death

It’s been a tough few days here in the backyard farm. First, one of my oldest hens, Sophie, got flystrike.  I’m not going to go into any details, but this is a horrible, horrible thing, and it happens FAST.  By the time I realized anything was wrong, she was too far gone.  We tried to save her, but I finally made the decision to put her down.

I did it myself, and it’s the first time I had to kill an animal that I looked upon as a pet.  It is possible (sometimes) to find a vet to euthanize chickens, but from what I hear, it’s not an easy process for them. It’s much quicker and less stress on the bird to do it at home, where they are familiar and comfortable.  If you look online, there are multiple ways people go about mercy kills, but I would never be comfortable with anything I didn’t feel was immediate and as painless as humanly possible. All those methods involving ice chests and chemicals? I’m not convinced that’s quick or humane – it’s just easier on the human. I don’t care if it’s easy on me. This isn’t about me; this is purely about the animal.  So I broke Sophie’s neck. I have a pair of pruning shears that do the job perfectly. I held her on the ground, petted her, said a prayer, and just did it. She didn’t suffer, and I was able to be in contact with her the entire time.

Rest in peace, Sophie. And I do honestly believe that’s plenty of Biblical evidence that animals get remade and reborn at the end with the rest of Creation. I hope I’m right. I think I am. I know God cares about each tiny little sparrow.

Sophie as a chick

Then, a few days later, one of my oldest quail died, and because she died, I made the decision to cull her mate, Peabody. He was the accidental white Texas A&M quail that hatched with my very first quail egg order. I never wanted A&M quail, and in fact, quickly learned I never would. Peabody was a difficult bird. He was hard on his mates (he went through three different females) and he hated me. He hissed and growled at me whenever he saw me, and would often attack my hand with his little bitty claws. It was cute in a miniscule bird, but still not a behavior I wanted to breed from. He had a big personality, and he made me laugh, but I really did not want to give him a fourth female when he was so hard on them, and he would be miserable by himself. So he’s gone, and I’m sad, but that was also the right decision. He had a terriffic three years – outlasting the “life expectancy” of a quail by about a year. His cage seems so empty without him in it, growling and hissing every time I walk by!

The fourth loss, was just now, when one of my snowflake bobwhite female died. I thought she’d been looking a little ruffled and slow for a couple of days, but couldn’t see any visible sign of illness. I’ve had sick quail before that recovered, but this time, it wasn’t to be. I went out to her pen earlier today, and I thought she was dead then – she looked asleep, and I couldn’t see her breathing. But when I picked her up, she opened her eyes, perfectly calm, and looked at me. She didn’t seem to be suffering, so I just put her back to die at her own choosing, which she did, about an hour later.

But life and death always turns in a circle, and as I write this, I have more quail eggs hatching in the incubator.  So soon, I’ll have new babies. And since I’m finally down to just Bobwhites and Golden Italian Coturnix, I’ll keep one of the new Italian males as well as the females.

2 responses to “Life and Death

  1. I am sorry to hear about the losses in your backyard. However, I want to convey my respect for the way you handled Sophie. I have heard several stories from friends of friends who started raising backyard chickens, but could not take care of the animal when the time came and allowed it to suffer. This is one of the main reasons I have decided to raise quail instead of chickens when I do add animals to my garden within the next year or two. I knew I was responsible for the humane death of my animals, and through research, found that putting down a quail was much easier to stomach than the larger chicken. So, thank you for treating Sophie the way you did and I am sorry you had to do that.

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