It was dusk, close to dark, the time of deepening shadows. The chicken yard was empty. I went out to close the chicken coop and was about to return to the house when for some reason I decided to look under the coop. There in the obscurity of darkness was a form. It didn’t look quite like a chicken, it looked like an upright lump. I couldn’t distinguish a head or tail and it wasn’t moving. But I knew it was one of the hens. I called to her to come in but she didn’t move so I knew something was wrong. I called to her a couple more times, and then finally I found a long branch and gently herded her back into the coop. It would have been sure death by some hungry predator for her to stay out all night.
The next morning I could see clearly that she had injured her neck. She couldn’t pick up her head to get to the feeder so was pecking along the floor for spilled pieces of grain. Having seen chickens with injured necks before, I knew this could be terminal. Later in the day, when all the birds were outside, I gave the injured hen, who was standing stark still, alone in the middle of the chicken yard, a handful of grain. Immediately the other chickens came over and gradually sidled her out of the way. Then, as I tried to prevent the healthy group from eating it all, Big Bird, the turkey rooster, flew at me. I realized immediately that I was interfering in the natural order and that I needed to let go so they could take care of the situation. They knew she had to go. An animal has to be able to take care of itself or it becomes a burden to the group. Big Bird was letting me know.
The rules of Mother Nature are imbedded into all animals. The hen instinctively knew the scheme of things and that was why she had objected to coming into the coop the night before. It was her time to go. The law of Nature says that the sick and injured must go and I had interfered. The hen was ready to die. That evening when I went to close up the coop, she was not under the coop waiting for the salvation of death. I went inside. She was under the heat light, in labored breathing. I felt sad for my ignorance — maybe It would have been an easier death for her to have been taken by a predator. I looked at her and thought, “She will be dead by the time I come to feed them in the morning.”
Morning came. As I walked toward the coop, I felt angst at the thought of carrying out the body of my little friend. I stepped tentatively into the coop and there she was in the corner – alive and with her head up! She scarfed up a healthy meal from the feeder and I knew she was going to make it. Not time to go!