On Saturday I spent some time in the garden sketching things in charcoal, including the chickens. They all seemed fine. On Sunday I got dressed up in old jeans with holes in them, an old faded t-shirt, marigold gloves, headscarf and wellys (with a fetching cow-skin print) and went to clean out the chicken coop and run. It's a mucky job, and long overdue this time, but satisfying. I spotted one of the new Rhode Island Reds lying in the run, apparently dead. She moved a little when I went to investigate, but shortly afterwards she did expire.
I don't know what was wrong with her. She had seemed fine the day before. All the other chickens are healthy and well except for a mite infestation, which is why I went out to clean the housing and treat it. Anyway mites on a chicken are like fleas on a dog - they're annoying but not lethal. There was no sign that anything had got into the run or harmed her. She was only 18 months old.
We have two older chickens, both hybrid layers, which we got at the same time and have always got along well with each other. Then we got two Rhodies in January, and they were pals with each other but the older girls bullied them a bit. Well whilst I was cleaning the hen house, the surviving Rhodie went over to her dead sister, lowered her head to her and made soft clucking noises. I don't think we should anthropomorphise animals (anyway, they don't like it), but it was impossible not to interpret it as saying something like "Elsie? Are you OK? Elsie, what's the matter? Get up!" And she pecked at the dead bird a couple of times as if prodding her to move.
I buried her at the back of a flower bed. I might pop a few spring bulbs on top later.