Chicken Crazy

The demise of Slasher, by Martin Gur­don

Your Chickens - - Contents -

It is the end of an era. Af­ter a decade of happy gar­den ac­tiv­ity we have had to say good­bye to Slasher the Arau­cana. This won­der­ful bird, who had been a fix­ture of mine and Jane’s lives since 2007, con­tracted a throat con­di­tion called Tri­como­ni­a­sis at the start of the year, which med­i­ca­tion was keep­ing in check but not cur­ing. We made nu­mer­ous trips to the vet and the prog­no­sis had shifted from up­beat to cau­tious. We were told that if the prob­lem couldn’t be cured it would lead to an un­pleas­ant, lin­ger­ing end be­cause Slasher wouldn’t be able to eat and drink prop­erly and would waste away.

So, when she and I headed to the vet for her umpteenth check up, I feared the worst.

“I’m afraid it’s not good news,” said the vet, as the bird stood on the ex­am­i­na­tion ta­ble and gave me a dirty look from un­der her floppy comb.

I signed the usual grim form and waited in re­cep­tion to pick up the box con­tain­ing Slasher. Quite of­ten when our birds are pro­fes­sion­ally dis­patched I pay a lit­tle ex­tra so that they don’t have to make the sad jour­ney home, but Slasher had been such a big part of our gar­den lives that I felt dif­fer­ently.

Iron­i­cally, she was oth­er­wise in good health. At the tail end of win­ter she had suf­fered a con­di­tion called wry neck, which has stroke-like symp­toms and meant a twisted head and, for 24 hours, an in­abil­ity to stand and walk, but a few days of R&R had seen her bounce back and she was quickly pa­trolling the gar­den and show­ing every­one else who was boss. She had gained weight and, af­ter sev­eral years of re­tire­ment, had even be­gun to lay the oc­ca­sional egg

Catch­ing her for the last time had in­volved the bird launch­ing her­self at my head and fly­ing over my shoul­der. I had even­tu­ally run her to earth us­ing a fish­ing net on an ex­tend­able pole, and she had thrashed about and cursed loudly when find­ing her­self un­der the mesh.

We keep an­i­mals for all sorts of rea­sons. Our chick­ens are pets, but the bot­tom line is that they have led happy lives with us and look­ing af­ter them has some­times meant mak­ing tough de­ci­sions. It seemed strange to dis­patch an an­i­mal who was still such a force of na­ture, but Slasher had had a fan­tas­tic time fol­lowed by a speedy, pain­less exit. I knew this was the right thing to do, but hav­ing dug a hole and shoed away the other birds (this hap­pened be­fore the fox at­tack), I picked up the old towel in which Slasher was wrapped, found that it was warm and was gen­uinely moved.

ABOVE: Re­mem­ber­ing Slasher, who re­mained a force of na­ture right to the end

Martin Gur­don

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.