It was the saddest day on Monday, when after more than two and a half years a free girl, Miss Eliza Chicken went to sleep in my arms. A brave girl to the end, she had been valiantly fighting crop stasis for a few weeks but eventually it proved too much for her tired body.
Darling Eliza, or Miss Eliza Elizabeth* Chicken to give her her full name, came to live with us as a poorlie girl from the last rescue out of barren cages before the January 2012 cage ban. Weighing almost nothing she was also unable to walk, so she was tucked up in the ICU (coal hole) with Evie, Miss Basket and a certain Effie Chicken. A few days of tlc, leg massages and as much food as her little tummy wanted saw a magical transformation in Eliza, so much so that a few days after Christmas, she was living outside in the hospital coop with Evie.
New friends Eliza (head in flowerpot) and Evie explore their new world
Eliza and Evie quickly became good friends and spent many happy hours exploring their half of the garden; discovering grass, sunshine, bugs and dustbaths – all those things every hen should enjoy. However, Evie had been a very unwell girl and her days as a free girl were numbered and two months later, after Evie’s untimely death, Eliza was moved into the Big Girls’ garden so she could be integrated as soon as possible.
It was at this point that Eliza discovered greens. For obvious reasons, Liza loved food, but most of all she loved greens. Still in her own coop at night, Eliza loved nothing more than to devour some greens away from the attentions of the other hens, chirruping madly, merrily munching her way through her suppertime treats.
Eliza (foreground) is happily integrated with the Big Girls
Once integrated, Eliza was briefly bottom hen until Flavia arrived and Eliza was very quick to let Flavia know that she was no longer bottom hen! However, the two girls quickly became close friends, a friendship that lasted for the rest of Eliza’s life. Whenever Eliza found a tasty treat, she spent so long chirruping to Flavia about it that by the time she had finished chirruping, Flav had come over and stolen the treat from straight under Liza’s beak!
Best Friends Eliza and Flavia
Within a year, and after the sad loss of some of her sisters and with the arrival of the G girls and Hettie, Eliza had risen through the ranks to become Bella’s lady-in-waiting and performed her tasks admirably, unless of course, there was food involved and then Eliza did not like to share!
With the sad passing of Top Hen Bella Chicken, Eliza suddenly found herself as top hen. Initially she struggled with her new role and forgot about making sure everyone was in bed at night or intervening in any squabbles. At best, she was a bit laissez faire, at worst a bit rubbish! But then Eliza found her true strength in her role as Top Hen; Gracie Lou was taken very ill suddenly one evening and sadly died in the night. Eliza sat with her until the coop was opened and even then she was pulling at Gracie’s feathers to try to wake her up. It was enough to make a grown man (Gary) cry. She took the loss of one of her girls very badly and was in mourning for days but eventually came out of it and took to her Top Hen tasks with renewed aplomb. Poignantly this tale features in the edition of Your Chickens magazine that is due out any day.
My favourite memory of Eliza was last summer when, until recently, she had been a reliable layer. Suddenly the eggs stopped and as Eliza showed no signs of any ailments, I put it down to her having far too much fun in the Cornish sun to bother with something as mundane as egg laying. Then one morning, she hurtled out of the coop, a hen on a very important mission. Minutes later I was surprised to see the bush by the wildlife pond wobbling and making strange noises. On investigation, I found Eliza happily laying an egg in a beautifully made nest that was holding a clutch of about ten eggs! She had obviously discovered that laying eggs al fresco was much more fun than in a stuffy old nest box! But she was so happy, doing just what a hen should be doing and it is a memory I will hold of her forever.
Eliza loved her food, especially her 2 Year Henniversary cakes!
A few weeks ago, Eliza started to lose weight and become generally listless. We discovered it was a crop issue but after treating her for sour crop, her crop was still not emptying. We worked with Uncle Jason to treat crop stasis and tried everything in our power to make her well again. She had live yoghurt and garlic, yummy light treats to tempt her, honey in her water to boost her sugar levels and a whole host of meds. Jason and I agreed that there was probably something underlying that was causing the problem but by this time she was possibly too weak to undergo treatment. One afternoon, she took a turn for the worse and I booked an appointment at the vets for the next day for her to be pts. We put her to bed and she settled in the coop door watching the sun set. We thought it would be her last, but Eliza had other ideas and the next morning she had rallied again. All the time she was fighting we knew we had to fight for her. So we saw Jason again and increased the meds.
However, I could not ignore the fact she was getting lighter and lighter. Food was so important to her, for a hen deprived of food during her life in the farm, she had been so very happy to fill her crop every day that she was a free girl. She had come to me a starving hen and I could not let her leave me a starving hen. The next time she took a turn for the worse, I decided that she could suffer no longer. It is the hardest decision we have to make but I must believe I did the right thing and could not bear to watch her waste away. It is an act of love and the final act of kindness I could give her. It didn’t make it any easier though. She went to sleep in my arms being told she was a good girl and that she was loved and very, very special.
Miss Eliza Chicken, sweet dreams darling xx
She was cremated with a sweetpea under her wing and an arum lily (from the plant neighbouring the infamous quivering egg bush) placed on top of her flowery shroud . Her ashes were laid to rest with those of her sisters and scattered with more sweetpeas.
Fly high darling Eliza Elizabeth, top hen and special girl. May you enjoy filling your crop every day at the Rainbow Bridge. Rip darling girl xx
* Elizabeth is a very special name for me. It was my beloved grandmother’s name, a gracious, witty and wonderfully irreverent lady, and consequently my darling daughter’s middle name. I also have a very beautiful and special friend called Liz. A fitting name for my special hen.
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