Death in the Hen House, Again

Another chicken died. Just one left, depressed and alone. She sat silently, staring into space, sulking. We offered plates of luxury bird food, and games with the cat but nothing helped.

Cat and sad chicken
Why did Another Chicken Die?

A neighbour said that rescue chickens are genetically modified to lay eggs. When they get older the eggs get bigger, and this can cause infections that are hard to cure. You have to prevent any suffering and end things quickly.

There are a few ways to deal with this situation.

Google it

Stumble across backyard chicken homesteading sites. Discover that a chicken farmer must know how to end a chicken’s life quickly and kindly. Found ‘how to kill a chicken’ within minutes. Decide not to do it myself.

Ask someone else in the house, who knows how to do it

Out of the question because it was their birthday. They said they don’t kill chickens on birthdays.

Go to the vet

This is the right option. But the chicken farmer websites were powerful and brainwash you. By now I believed I was a real chicken farmer who ‘deals with things’.

I also remembered the bill when the last dog was put down. She was a good dog.

Labrador and sausage
She looked like this, especially when she was thinking about sausages. She thought about sausages most of the time.

It cost £130, plus £130 for accidentally ticking the box saying we wanted the ashes. The ashes are still here. 

The vet would not have charged anything like that for a small chicken but I wasn’t thinking straight.

Find a neighbour who keeps chickens and ask them

The neighbour said yes, so the chicken died peacefully at home and that was fine, but wriggling out of a vet bill is not something to go on about.

There was one sad chicken left.

How do you replace a long time member of the household?

A local farm, which sells all sorts of chickens, was closed because all the staff have COVID, but luckily I spotted a sign by the road saying ‘POL chickens for sale.’ 

I rang in for a POL chicken, curious to know what breed this is. Turns out that POL stands for Point of Lay and means they are young. 

I said ‘my chicken needs company.’ They asked ‘what kind of chicken have you got?’ ‘I don’t know.’ I said ‘It’s brown.’

‘How about a friendly cockerel?’ they asked.

We did have a cockerel once. It was noisy, laid no eggs and attacked children. You can’t get cockerels neutered to make them nicer, so I asked for anything that lays eggs and we made a deal.

I had two days to get ready for new chicks.


You have to clean the hutch, in case any diseases are lurking.

Cleaning the chicken house
It was full of spiders. I used fresh newspaper to line the nesting boxes and felt ashamed that it was the Daily Mail. I need to do an investigation round here to see who bought it, and why.

And find a cat box to collect the new chickens.

Things looked hopeful when the POL pair arrived.  Old Chicken perked up immediately, looking excitedly into the box

Chicken excited to meet new chickens

She rushed across to watch them explore their pen.

Chicken meeting new chickens
See the difference between a depressed chicken and an excited one, with new potential friends.

But chickens can turn. It is a good idea to prepare for fights about Pecking Orders and introduce them gradually. For the first few days, they would live next door to each other, with no direct contact, just a few chats over the wall.

All it took was a simple partition in the hen house, built with quality cardboard.

Partition across a chicken house to keep them apart

 Chickens were tucked in safely that night with no chance of getting at each other to cause trouble. Two on the left, one on the right.

They worked fast.  By morning the partition was down

Smashed partition in chicken house

Flattened as they worked together to become one team.

Now they are a trio, moving around the garden as one, never more than a few feet apart. Young chickens are keen to socialise and by day 5 they have worked out that it is nice to gather at your feet, wait to be stroked, and jump up onto garden furniture. 

angry cat and chicken
Chicken on a chair. Unimpressed cat.

Young chickens are also stupid enough to eat slugs. One will run triumphantly away from the other when it finds one. Sometimes there is a chase and a squabble. Whoever eats the slug has to do a lot of beak wiping. Old chickens don’t eat slugs because they know they are disgusting and sticky.

At night the slugs get their revenge

Slugs eating chicken food
Because they love chicken food.

7 thoughts on “Death in the Hen House, Again”

  1. After a very turbulent time with some new arrivals some years ago, we bought another coop. Now we keep them apart until they demonstrate that they can get on with one another and the older ones don’t keep trying to kill the younger ones. We’ve never dared introduce new chickens to a single chicken because of that particular incident. If we get down to two chickens we usually get two more, but bird flu quarantine and covid have made that impossible recently.

  2. Lovely writing, as always Jo, thank you. Here’s a tip for depressed last chicken…we bought Jules 7 chickens for his 7th Birthday and they all lived around 7 years, so all very nice round numbers. I think because they were completely free, they were always perfectly healthy and died one by one in their sleep. We just happenened to have a huge mirror outside in the yard by the time we got down to last chicken, so she never got lonely, used to chat to herself for hours in the mirror. As you mention…they’re not the brightest buttons in the box!

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