I said goodbye to Gimpie today. She was one of 6 hens given us by our neighbor some 4 years ago, and only one is now left, the Ameracauna. Gimpie had a bad hip which may be because our neighbor would carry her birds by their feet, upside down. She said they went to sleep and wouldn’t struggle that way. Her son objected that it was bad for them and I guess Gimpie was the result. Anyhow Gimpie was a real trooper – with her bad hip she would struggle out of the coop down to the second paddock where they congregated for the day. And in the evenings she would wait for me to pick her up and carry her back to the coop – a passenger chicken I called her, thinking of the Passenger pigeons which we exterminated. And though handicapped she was first in pecking order and last year, I don’t know how, she would manage to get into the nesting boxes and lay eggs. An indomitable spirit.
Gimpie had one offspring, Gus, a handsome rooster whom we gave to a nearby farm where we saw him for several years in the field alongside the road.
Yesterday was cold (16 deg F in the night, 25 deg F in the day) and Gimpie emerged from the coop but did not go down to the second paddock and stayed near the coop where the sun caught the base. I decided to replace the infrared heating lamp in the coop and so, as is his wont, the rooster came to investigate my doings and one of the younger hens came along as well. I had finished in the coop and had left paddock when I paused to watch the rooster trying to ingratiate himself with the young hen. He sidled alongside her bowing his head and making, I suppose, romantic clucks. She would have none of it and promptly headed into the coop. He was angry and then he saw Gimpie by herself and went for her, like a hawk striking a small bird. She crumpled and lay there. I thought she was dazed.
When I came back to lock them up, a couple hours later, I saw she had moved about 10 feet and was motionless, eyes closed. I brought a cage into the coop, placed it near the heating lamp, filled it with pine shavings and provisioned it with water and food and settled her there for the night. As I left I heard her eating vigorously. This morning the Gimpie we knew was gone and I buried the rigid body in a deep hole near the pear tree.