A few days ago I noticed that Snowy, one of our Light Brahmas hens was acting off. She was quiet, off to herself and hunkered down in a little dirt hole. When we went to her, she seemed indifferent – unusual as she's one that doesn't like to be held or pet. The broody hens act very similar on the nest – not even helping themselves to food or water when specifically offered and I couldn't tell if she was ill or just broody and decided to just keep an eye on her.
This morning when I went out with the girls to water and feed the hens, it was evident that Snowy had gone to the great, green, lawn-filled-with-worms in the sky. She didn't seem to have any signs of distress so I don't know what happened.
We've never lost a hen to illness before and I had no idea what to do with her. Just putting her in the trash bin seemed an ignoble end to a faithful and gentle provider of eggs for almost two years. On the other hand, I'm not so impractical that I don't realize she is just a chicken. What if she had a disease though? Should I bury her? What if another animal dug her up and transmitted the disease?
A call to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension helped and gave one surprisingly big answer. First, animal mortality is apparently fairly common and unless you are seeing similar symptoms throughout the flock, one death is normal. Okay. How do I dispose of her?
"Compost. Middle of a hot pile."
"Compost? An animal?"
"I've composted everything from a rat to a 40 ton whale."
"Wait a minute. A WHALE? 40 TONS?"
Seems a few years ago a 40 TON whale washed up on the beach, already dead. College of the Atlantic asked for the bones for a student project. The rest, well, it got composted. Carted away in big trash bins and taken to the local town dump where it was covered with saw dust and wood shaving. Apparently, three weeks later, you couldn't tell anything had been buried.
I don't think I want to know how many trash bins it took to remove the entire whale!
© 2009 Anne Mahle