My geriatric hen is on her way out. Old Lady is the last of the barred rocks and it seems like I've had her forever. She's a sweet bird and was a good layer back in her prime, and I'll miss her. Old chickens' toes get so gnarly and I was surprised to see that her comb actually started to shrink. When a hen is of laying age her comb is big and bright red, dulling as the years go on and productivity drops, but I'd never seen one shrink to a nubbin like Old Lady's (maybe I have had her forever). She's been moving slower for some time. The rest of the flock comes tumbling out the drop door in the morning, but Old Lady stays inside for awhile and we have a conversation as I check for eggs and fill the waterers. Once again, I am struck by a chicken's life force. They don't give up the ghost without a fight. Old Lady has been knocking on Death's door for two days now.
If age were the criteria, Tzar Nicholas will be the next to go (not any time soon, I hope). Poor Nick, he is/was such a handsome guy. The little girls keep him from getting too full of himself by pulling out his tail feathers. From the front, he's quite impressive. When he turns, the part that goes over the fence last is bare. Since he never sees that angle, he struts his stuff around the pen, wearing the Emperor's New Clothes.
When Pete moved up here (well, to Nor-Cal), he had stopped at Mt. Aukum and told me they had new chicks! I was tempted, but I think I'll hold off another year. With Old Lady's passing, I'll be down to ten hens and the Tzar. I'm still picking up at least five eggs a day now and I use so few that they're piling up in the fridge. I sell only a dozen a week, and give them away like door prizes when the Kids come up.
Since I'm so good at whining about the weather, I should note that the last couple of days have been perfection and I've got nothing to complain about.