True stories of a small flock of remarkable individuals -- and other critters.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Flock of Four

"Don't cry because it's over. 
Smile because it happened."
-- Dr. Seuss

I buried Fern yesterday.

She died on Christmas. 
Probably not a significant day, to a chicken.
It just happened to be the right day for Fern to let go. 

Fern had courageously and hysterically battled illness since June. 
I helped her, perhaps more than I should have. 

But she just kept singing and being silly and, well, being Fern.
She wasn't ready to give up, so I didn't give up either.

I kept her going, hoping she would acquire more strength to fight.

After all, Lucy recovered. 
And she thrived. 
Lucy struggles still, but I make sure she is comfortable and happy, and I know that she is.

Fern helped me to understand that sometimes valiant efforts should not be taken to keep a beloved pet alive. 

For the past month, I have watched her condition deteriorate, ever so slowly. 
I knew she wouldn't make it through the winter.   

On Christmas morning Fern was sleepy, and she didn't sing to me when I lifted her from the nest box. When I offered her food and drink, she showed no interest.  

That afternoon when I visited the ladies,they were all hanging out with Fern.  
It felt to me like a vigil. 
It was not a sad moment. 
Just a quiet flock-moment.
Fern died a few hours later.  

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
She was a gorgeous bird.
She spent nearly three years as a chicken,
but she never did grow up.

Fern was a chickadee-chaser.

She challenged authority.

Fern tirelessly annoyed the whole flock, 

and she was number one on Lil'White's hit list.

Memories of Fern will always bring a chuckle, and I will smile because she "happened."
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

So another chapter has ended, and I am left with a flock of four. 

Now I look toward Spring.

Normally, I lustily peruse my flower and seed catalogs all through the winter. 

But this winter I'll be thumbing through chicken catalogs.

I'd like to increase my flock to seven or eight.

Maybe I'll get a Spitzhauben, a Wyandotte .... Definitely another Barred Rock....

Isn't it wonderful how life just keeps rolling along?  
I can't wait to meet my new characters! 


  1. Oh Bless Fern, she touched all of our hearts with her courage. What a character. xxx

  2. I also meant to add...better to worry you did too much than not enough...she was a lucky girl. We all learned from your journey.

  3. Sorry to hear about Fern, but I think you framed it right. Thank you- it was touching.

  4. God bless Fern, and gentle farmers, and little flocks. I am so happy to read about her lovely life, and even her gentle passing makes me glad for the small kindnesses that can comfort us.

    We are thinking of spring chicks, too. Our once hearty flock of eight has been whittled down to five... unfortunately by multiple tragedies. It is good to remember the quote you share... thank you. We are smile for the funny-silly-touching days we have enjoyed with our chicas.

  5. So sad to hear that Fern passed, but what a great life she lived! Through your stories she touched so many lives... And--through your artwork-she lives on :)

  6. i'm going to miss Fern.
    Your heart told you to do everything you could for her, so i would say you did a very good thing.

  7. Oh Lauren, I am sad for you - and all of us :) You made us all fall in love with Fern and her quirkiness. I too love how you described her passing, not maudlin, just Fern and her friends (well except for Lil' White) knowing in their chicken way that things were going to change. We now have new character stories to look forward to starting this spring! Happy New Year to you and your critter family!

  8. This is too sad to bear. I have been helping an elderly hen through these last few cold nights here in Austin. The temps have dipped down into the 20s and I struggle with whether or not to bring her in the house but I dare not acclimate her to the warmth that she would soon be deprived of. I am afraid to go out to the coop in the morning for fear that I've lost her to the freeze. So far she has been up with the sun and wanting her warm water and scratch. Nothing warms the heart like a sweet and gentle hen.

    1. I've never understood why people keep sick or injured birds in the coop. Everyone should have a chicken ICU. Mine is the laundry room, so if they need help, I'm right there, and can feed them with a syringe every two hours. When humans get seriously ill or hurt, do they stay home? No, they go to the hospital, so they can get round-the-clock care, until they are well enough to go home.

    2. I understand why people keep birds in the coop. It's because people are all different with different backgrounds and experiences. Some are pragmatic, some indulgent, some JUDGE others without a complete understanding of what's going on. My bird is elderly (if you read carefully you would have caught that). She is not sick or injured. In my experience, people and animals eventually succumb to age or disease or injury. We do not go on forever. Round the clock care is no guarantee of survival. I've worked in a veterinary hospital for 15 years and have seen many pets come and go, mostly all loved beyond words and yet they still pass. The lucky ones do die at home surrounded by their family.

  9. It makes me sad she's gone.... but Fern will live on forever in your heart. (And ours!)

  10. Dear Lauren,
    Your dedication and perseverance healing Fern is admirable. I am sure that she went happy and knowing that she was loved.
    You are a great person !
    I always gave full dedication to my pets until the last minute and I commend people that do the same.
    I was thinking about Fern lately....
    Nobody can replace Fern but its going to be a kind of console starting a new chapter...
    Have a nice New Year !

  11. Dearest Lauren,
    I am so very sorry and upset, to hear about Fern. Maybe she will meet up with Hattie and they can share their crazy chicken Mom stories xxxx

    Rachel xxxx

  12. I am so sorry to hear abut Fern! She was so beautiful and looks almost identical to my Cleo who I lost on July 5.

    I recently said goodbye to my hen Buttercup who had been sick since April. She fought a long, hard battle and in the end I may have kept her alive longer than I should have. She kept fighting though and I didn't want to give up on her until she was ready. She passed away in my arms one night when I got home from work. I miss her so much!

    This is such a sweet post and I love your illustrations. You are so talented!

  13. Oh Lauren, you are such a wonderful writer and I am so sorry to hear that Fern has passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. I know the love that you had for her and the love you have for your entire flock. I think you captured her spirit perfectly. Our lives are better and brighter because of Fern. ~Melissa

  14. So sorry about Fern. We will all miss her antics. What a lovely remembrance you wrote to say goodbye to a dear friend. She was lucky to have you as her mom. Take care. Joan

  15. God will take over now.... Go with God Fern you were so loved for your short time on this earth.

    Kind thoughts,

  16. So sorry for the loss of Fern. I love reading your stories. I would one day like a flock of hens, they are such interesting characters!

  17. I'm sorry. You gave her a great quality of life, and did all anyone could possibly do.

  18. R.I.P. Fern
    What a beautiful story.
    Kallenbach Kluckers

  19. Oh, beautiful Fern. We are sorry that you have lost your special friend. Many kisses from all of us. xoxoxoxo

  20. Darlin' Lauren, Fern was a lucky gal to have you for a mom... and you were lucky to have her. She will be missed. xo, Sue

  21. Oh dear, I'm so sorry. After your last post about Fern, I have been wondering. Isn't it wonderful how the other ladies knew? I have a hen with a sore leg at the moment and she's sitting a lot lately, resting it. The other 2 sit with her and gently touch her with their beaks.

  22. blessings to you as you venture towards spring, so sorry to hear about really are a sweet momma to those feathered friends of yours :)

  23. I know exactly how it feels to fight for one of our hens and eventually lose anyway. Earlier this year I lost Miel, a miniature bantam. Ill since December 2011 and fought until the April 20, 2012. Her sister Manzanilla had two beautiful chicks on June 1. Life goes on and one day we too will go and new ones will come. I send you a fraternal embrace from Mexico.

  24. I'm so sorry about Fern. I feel like I knew her from your posts. It's my 5 chickens first winter. I did lose a chick at 8 weeks but my chickens seem good. I do know the pain of losing pets though as I've lost dogs, cats and a horse. You know, horses gather around a fallen horse too. All animals are amazing creatures.

  25. Thank you, Lauren, for opening my eyes with your beautiful story of love. I lost my first hen 2 days before Christmas and cannot believe how I sobbed when she died in my arms. I wondered if I made a mistake starting my flock and risking heartache each time one of them passes on. I now realize through your touching story that I can't look at it that way. I will grieve with the passing of each pet, but the joy they bring can not be outweighed by sadness. Thank you for sharing your tales of joy and pain with us. Fern was a lucky gal!

  26. Oh heart breaks as I read this. It's so hard to lose a pet, but you did above and beyond what most would have to be sure that Fern lived as full and comfortable a life as possible. There's room for you in heaven for sure. Fern could not have had a better Chicken Mom.

  27. Lauren -

    So sorry for your loss of Fern. Her story touched so many and your compassion is an example for us all.

  28. Lauren...What a lovely, heartwarming post! Fern was blessed to be in your care, just as you (and we) were blessed to enjoy her life! Big hugs to you!

  29. So sorry to hear of Fern's passing! And what a lovely memorial posting - thank you for having shared all this with us!

  30. Lauren,
    This anonynous poem has always given me comfort at the loss of a human or a beloved member of a critter family.

    :Do not stand at my grave and weekp.
    I am not there. I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glints on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle autumn rain.

    When you awaken in the morning's hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circling flight.
    I am the soft star that shines at night.

    Do not stand at my grave and cry.
    I am not there. I did not die"


  31. Sad that she went at Christmas but she had a good life and you did your very best for her.

    You have to look forward (as we do too)to your new flock members in spring.

    Goodbye little Fern.

  32. So touching. We always hold out for the best outcome, and sometimes we are rewarded. Fern was lucky to have such a great Chicken-Mom as you. I am sorry she is gone. ~Lynda

    PS: Thank you for sharing the great DS quote.

  33. It is notable that so many people grew attached to Fern through your stories about her. The anonymous poem sent by Carla does it for me. Isn't wonderful to look forward to spring? Tony

  34. Having my own chickens for the last 13 years, I understand how sad it can be when these birds are our pets. They are so loving and have their own little personalities. I love getting to know each one, and the entertainment that they bestow upon me. You did a great job of giving the little Fern your best and she surely was blessed because of it, as is all the people that Fern touched.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  35. Fern could have been a twin to Pearl, my sweet, funny, low-ranking hen (and my favorite, naturally), which made reading your posts about her that much more personal. Thank you for giving her such a good life and for sharing it with us.

  36. So sorry for your loss, Lauren. It's so hard to lose a beloved pet. (Our kitty died on Thanksgiving this year, and it broke my heart.)There's a beautiful statue in the Gardens near our home of Christ kneeling with a flock of chickens, and it always reminds me that kindness to our animals is never wasted.

  37. Aww so sorry about your Fern. Amazing how these creatures secure that place in our hearts. I love contemplating and looking at new breeds of birds. It is always fun.

    @ 3Beeze Homestead

  38. I just now read that Fern flew away for good. It made my heart lurch, but your wonderful story about her life and chicks to come soothed me back to a better place. Thank you so much for sharing her with us through your wonderful pictures and stories. She WAS a good hen. And you're an incredibly hen Momma.

  39. Oops---I meant incredible. Or it could be incredibly good.....

  40. I am so sorry to hear about Fern passing. I hope you will be able to find a few new chicks this spring, I know Terry is ordering 25 and just yesterday posted what breeds she is going to get including 5 Easter Eggers. I hope you will be able to find a few of your own new pullets in Terry's new chicks.

  41. Here is a happy song to keep Fern with us...

  42. Wonderful story of hearts and love! I still have tears on the keyboard, but a smile as I know what it is to fall in love with our "Girls" Thanks for sharing!

  43. I'm just catching up with your group. I am so sorry to about Fern. She was surrounded by those who cared for her in the end. I look forward to seeing who joins your family in the spring. Bonnie

  44. So sorry to hear. Am just getting back to the computer after being sick over the holidays. It is always sad when a hen you are trying to help succumbs and dies despite our efforts. It is a comfort that she was able to just go to sleep with her friends gathered around her. That should be a great comfort to you. Check out your local poultry group or visit your local feed store for a couple of chicks-great fun and will give you much to laugh about. Or check their cork board for local friends with hens to sell. Good luck and my this year be a good one for you.

  45. I knew and loved Fern through your stories. I will miss reading about her adventures, but she had a full life and was well loved. That is the most any of us can ask I think, so Fern was very very lucky. I'm looking forward to hearing about the new additions. I'm planning to add a chick or two to our flock this spring as well.

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  47. (((HUGS))) to you, Lauren.

    My heart breaks with your little Fern. I know all too well it is like to watch the "kids" you love so very much succumb to Marek's. I lost **all** of my beautiful Cuckoo Araucana Summer hatchling kids, one by one, die from it only a couple months ago. I'm still devastated.

    Even my most treasured little cuckoo colored girl, "Baubles," a picture of rumpless perfection... big, showy, tufts springing forth from the skin flaps ("peduncles") hanging like big feathered earrings under each earlobe... became paralyzed in that one leg forward and one back position that is so common to this illness. Because of my outbreak, I learned more than I would have ever wanted to know about Marek's. :'(

    -Please, know that all survivors are lifelong carriers, so there will continue to be a risk to the flock.

    Although there is a vaccine, it is only effective for *newly* hatched chicks... it must be given within the 1st couple days after hatching or--as most large hatcheries do--through the shell during incubation... so please consider purchasing your chicks already vaccinated as an option from the hatchery, and then prevent exposure (including clothing worn out with the flock) for their 1st three weeks of life, while their immune systems are creating the antibodies.

    Already grown birds are still at risk, however there are many individuals out there have a stronger resistance than others. Some studies indicate that it is possible that vaccination of Marek's carriers might slow the shedding of the virus. (It is shed through dander from the feather follicles.)

    Fern was lucky to have you. Through you she knew kindness, compassion, and most of all--love!

    1. It's Jenn... AKA: "Mother-Clucker", again. I wish I didn't have an update to what I wrote above... but I do. *long sigh*

      This morning I found "Bubba".... double tufted and rumpless brother of "Baubles," dead this morning. He passed from the wasting away form of Marek's. I've been watching him get progressively thinner fora while now, deep in denial and hoping beyond hope that he would recover.... after all, he was totally gorging himself like a starved wolf.

      Last night I held him, weak from all the energy robbed from him by the lymphoma-cancer internally... one of the 5 presentations of Marek's. He was the very *last* of the tufted/rumpless breeding and, I was hoping, show quality Araucana babies of last summer. He could barely hold up his head... his skull noticeably sharp, angular, and sunken now... but did open his eyes and melted my heart with his soft ("Mama") coo he always gave me. I loved him so much... and almost equally to his sister, "Baubles." (in the above post)

      I had the feeling that would be the last time I'd hold him alive... and I was right.

      This morning I went into my layers' coop... well over 80 ladies-in-lay... and found, to my silent horror, one Easter Egger girl unable to stand. This is the **first** Marek's case in that particular area. I'm trying not to dwell upon wondering how many girls will follow. Time will tell.......

  48. That was really touching. RIP Fern xx

  49. I just found ur site today and loved reading about Fern and your courageous love and care for her. I'm sorry she had to go but thank you for taking such good care of her and sharing her life and her care with us. It's helping me too bc I lost some of my flock. God bless :-) and I love this site