Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Queen is dead. Long Live the Queen.

You've all heard about how I got started with chickens.  I really resisted naming them (since I figured we might eat them sooner or later), but they DID get named.  You can see pics of all of them if you scroll back through older posts.

Stewie the Rhode Island Red rooster that I fully intended to make into stew.  My husband saved him by liking him.  Yeah, I'm a softie.

Trouble the Easter Egger roo who keeps trying to attack me (and who Stewie is very good at protecting me from).

Cow the Bantam Sultan.  SIMPLY ANNOYING.

But then there were my layer girls.  After all, they're doing all this work, so they had to have names.  My Buff Orpingtons are named for sisters from the British sitcom "Keeping Up Appearances."  Hyacinth is a wonderful layer, Violet does OK, and Daisy is starting to come into her own.

My Rhode Island Reds are named for queens.  It all started because the Reds were the first to lay . . .and the first of the Reds to lay was christened Bess (for Queen Elizabeth I, "Good Queen Bess").  The other two are Vicky (for Queen Victoria . . .but since I have a friend who's named Victoria, it seemed a little inappropriate to name a chicken after her) and Mary (Queen Mary Tudor).  Mary's nickname was Bloody Mary since she once pecked me hard enough to draw blood.

I had never raised chickens to adulthood before this last year.  I had started some chicks, but that's a long story for another day.  The first chicken I watched on the nest was Bess, and the first fresh, warm egg that I've ever held in my hand was hers. 

She was beautiful, glossy red with a comb big enough to flop over to one side--rather like a stylish milliner's hat.  Her feathers might have looked a little tattered, but that's the sign of a good laying hen--they put more energy into eggs than feathers.  She had a very distinctive cackle after she laid an egg, and she did that often.  Very rare was the day that Bess didn't lay, even in winter.  I got to know and love her distinctive eggs.

Folks, I found her dead this morning.  At first I thought that she might have been eggbound (when they're unable to pass an egg) because of some swelling near her vent.  Then, thinking back on where I found her, I think that one of the roosts must have shifted in the night and pinned her to the wall.  Neither option is a pleasant one to think about.

Bess got a dignified burial out in the pasture.  I felt bad when I tamped down the earth over her.  Heck, I felt bad enough when I found her dead!  How could I let that happen?  I guess I still have way more to learn.  I'm sorry it had to happen at Bess' expense.

Good Queen Bess, you will be sorely missed. 


  1. i am so saddened and sorry about Bess, your chicken friend. i have, so far, only ever had 1 chicken myself. she was "disabled" as am i. if i ever start blogging, her life, and the time i shared with her, will be a source of great inspiration- just as she herself, was to me. on days when i felt like "what's the use in trying," or when i'd catch a case of "Ring Around The Ass, er-ah i mean REAR!," I'd look at her and think of how hard she faught just to live and all the hardships she had to endure and overcome. and what a happy chicken and joyous, kind and loving Soul she was! I'd think, does she ever give up or indulge in self-pity? no she does not! and i'd move beyond my own.

    i felt so guilty and even ashamed when i realized i had to have her euthanized. and i still miss her a year later. but i do treasure every moment and experience we shared together. And i know i did the very best i knew how to do for her, likewise, i know YOU ALSO did the very best you knew how to do for your Bess.

    with all the understanding, love and compassion it is possible for one person to summon and send to another in this time of loss, sincerely, Barb (A kindred Sister-Soul to you)

    1. Thank you SO MUCH, Barb! I think you are a kindred sister-soul! I felt so guilty too--after all, it WAS something I could have prevented. Hopefully her spirit will linger here and possibly visit us again.