Dear Sprite died on 21st November. Her heart finally gave up and after spending a Saturday morning in the garden she retreated into her house, gasping but not appearing to be in serious pain. Her sister Spirit joined her and I gave Sprite another dose of her heart medication in the hope that we could get her over this. In my heart I knew we had reached the end of her road. I left her for 2 hours to look after the other animals and when I returned she was already dead and starting to stiffen. In her last distress she had clambered out of her house and collapsed in their covered run. Spirit was sitting at the back of the run worried and visibly distressed.
Sprite lived 1 year and 2 months which is a year and 2 weeks longer than it was intended she should live when she hatched. I shall remember her flying down the garden as a pullet and jumping for grapes even at a year old.
We cremated her and I have gathered her ashes and placed them under a weeping cherry tree in the garden. As I did this I noticed that the distal epiphysis of her femur was fused – the joint at the end of the leg bone which in meat birds is an almost formless lump of gristle, in Sprite had grown into the weight-bearing joint of an adult bird. Sprite was special, she grew up and lived a life even if her body grew too large for her beautiful heart.
Tonight, 10 days before Christmas, 2 of the Broiler Babies are still with us. Spirit and Mr Mushroom. Spirit takes a daily dose of metacam, for pain relief and to reduce inflammation in her legs (the consequence of weighing as much as a goose – 6.5kgs) and twice daily doses of frusemide tablets for her chronic heart failure. She chortles and sings to me and I’m grateful for this. Mr Mushroom regulates his food intake by always standing back to let the ladies eat first. He’s also a large bird, the same weight as Spirit but with his longer, stronger legs he’s more active but could still succumb to a heart attack at any time.
Every day is precious.
If you would like to find out more about rescuing hens destined for slaughter, please go to www.bhwt.org.uk