Someone asked me the other day how Little and Flight (the chucks) were doing? I grimaced a bit and then had to admit that they weren’t doing very well at all – in fact, they both died in March.
I haven’t told you this until now, mainly because it was very upsetting.
Flight became intermittently poorly – one day OK and the next day not so OK – Yes, I do know that is the meaning of intermittent! She would be as bright as a button for a day or two, eating every bug in sight and destroying the garden, and then take herself off into the shrubbery and sit hunched and sick-looking.
There was little point in taking her to the vet, this I have learnt with previous chucks. The treatment is either antibiotics, that never work, or missing that stage altogether and going straight in for the kill.
One Sunday morning she didn’t want to come out of her bed and from under the heat lamp, and during the morning she slipped into a coma. Around four in the afternoon she drifted peacefully away.
She was a lovely chuck, not as tame and forthcoming as Flight but beautiful. I never grew tired of watching her scratching around on the lawn with the sun on her feathers. She shone blue in the sunshine.
We then had the awful problem of being left with one chuck. Everyone will tell you one chicken is a no-no and it’s true. They, like many other creatures are flock/herd animals and they need the companionship of others.
We decided, in our infinite wisdom, to pop to the farm down the road and pick up a friend for her. Little was a kind soul, originally being hen-pecked and at the bottom of the pecking order, a bit of a runt really so we had little worry about her accepting a new friend.
There wasn’t a great deal of choice, but we weren’t looking for something to ring whistles and bells just a dear companion for Little, someone to help her over her grief of losing her best friend. We chose a Red Island Red cross Light Sussex and hurried home.
We placed the newbie in the chuck house, partitioned off from each other, but still able to see one another. After several hours, and everything going swimmingly, we decided to carefully introduce them to each other.
The newbie approached Little looking really jolly and happy. Little, dear, sweet, Little, raised her head as tall as a giraffe, leapt into the air and attacked the newbie. For seconds we stood in shocked silence as Little dealt blow after blow on the newbie, until finally the newbie struck back, catching Little on her comb and drawing blood. By this time we were moving and I grabbed Little.
After this the newbie was named Rita Raptor.
Over a period of a few days they had short sessions of ‘almost’ contact with each other, with me standing between them like an on-guard sentry. It was around Rita Raptors fifth day that we noticed Little not being quite right. It was at this point that I realised I had made a grave mistake in thinking that Flight had died from something peculiar to herself. Obviously they both had it. She deteriorated overnight and I wasn’t prepared to watch her die slowly so we took her to the vet, and she put her to sleep.
I was bitterly upset. Yes, I know. She was just a chicken. But my chucks are not just chucks and Little was a sweet girl.
So, we now had the same problem . . . one chuck on its own. Fortunately the chucks’ cage is a summer house, divided down the centre, so Little and Rita had, in fact, been kept separate. We crossed everything that we had and prayed that the Raptor hadn’t picked up the disease.
We scrubbed everything in sight – ten times – even though the chuck house is cleaner than some hospitals – and then, after a week, fetched another chuck for Rita. This was Mabel.
Mabel dealt Rita Raptor a swift peck to the head and that was that. Rita accepted instant defeat and all was well.
They are like my permanent shadows. Originally they were both quite timid with me, but I have a trick . . . it’s called ‘corn in the pocket.’ Once Rita knew there was a supply of corn in my pocket – and if she came to me she would get some – we were away. Now I can’t appear without them tearing down the garden and wrapping themselves around my feet. I’m always tripping over them or standing on their toes. They don’t seem to mind.
I still miss Flight and Little.
So, now you know. My girls have gone. I sometimes imagine I see them, a quick flash of blue in the undergrowth, where the sun slants through – and who knows, perhaps I do. I like to think so. Rita and Mabel are sweet and friendly and funny but time hasn’t dulled the memories of Little and Flight just yet and so, for now, Rita and Mabel will have to remain towards the bottom of my pecking order.
Take care x