Today would have been the 4th birthday of Ruby, our gorgeous, black, Pekin bantam hen. Ruby passed away 11 days ago - lots of tears. But today I would like to celebrate her and remember her as one tough little lady.
I bought Ruby back in October of 2008. My brother was getting married and we had joked about getting a chicken to commemorate the wedding. Needing little encouragement, logic, sound reasoning or any reason at all really to buy another hen, off I went to purchase a commemorative wedding chicken!
I called her Ruby owing to the feathers on her throat, which were red in the sunlight. She was a black beauty and settled in quickly, about 3/4 of the way up the pecking order. Ruby was immediately friendly, curious and deeply interested in any visits that we took to the pen. She was easily handled and although we bought her at around a year old, it was as though we had known her since she was a chick - such was her easy nature and relaxed poise from my constant cuddling.
Tricky LiverIn her first winter with us in 2009, Ruby became very unwell. Her comb (the pointy, red bit on top of her head if you're unsure) drooped and went a sullen, beige colour, she dropped a lot of weight, lost her appetite and was ostracised from the flock.
A Vet visit determined that her liver was in very poor shape - shrunken and knobbly like a walnut, when it should have been smooth and somewhat like a ripe plumb in presentation. We thought it was all over for our girl.
But some hope was offered in the form of a liver medication actually made for people. An eighth of a tablet, administered twice a day. By the third day there seemed to be signs of improvement. Before a week she was clearly on the mend. She stayed in a hutch in the lounge for several weeks - fattening up and getting back to top form. It was also vital to keep her warm and insulated from the cold weather, as much of the weight loss was attributed to her burning off fat stores to keep herself warm. We kept her on the medication during this time but slowly cut it down to one dose a day, then one dose every other day. When she kept improving despite the absence of the medication, we stopped it altogether. She was returned to the pen with her friends and went on to be in top form for a further three years.
Hot MamaIn the summer of 09/10, Ruby went broody or clucky as it's often known. Her hormones went in to overdrive and despite having no eggs to sit on, Ruby sat diligently on her empty nest for several weeks. Wonderful stuff considering most days were well in to the mid to late 30's (late 90's if you're from a Fahrenheit education). Even the nights were dreadfully warm. One night I went out to clean up and tuck in the girls and heard this persistent and concerning noise echoing in the night. It was Ruby - dehydrated, steaming hot and panting so hard that she was making a mini honking noise every 2 to 3 seconds. What to do? Straight in to a carrier (same kind as you'd get for a cat) and into the air conditioning. Here is our girl enjoying herself in her Chicken 4 Seasons penthouse suite.
The Ear Infection to Beat All Ear InfectionsThen in the winter of 2012 I noticed she was looking down again. Was it the liver problem back for a second go? I picked her up to give her some love and encouragement, when I noticed something sticking out of her left ear. Just awful! Ruby had an absolutely staggering ear infection. I pushed the feathers away from her ear canal - but there was no canal. It was blocked so much that the infectious material was pushing out of the ear. The Vet ended up needing to operate on her - apparently the first time he has ever drained an ear canal of a bird. He reported that the infection went the entire length of her ear and part of the way down her throat. Having had the odd inner ear infection myself, I can not imagine how painful this would have been for her. Then to top it all off she got a throat infection that stopped me cold. Looking down her throat was really upsetting. Her throat was coated in white deposits and a fairly pricey laboratory analysis returned the result that Ruby in fact had three different bacteria in full bloom. Two types of anti biotics stopped the infections and cleared up the last of the ear problem.
And throughout everything, she was magnificent. She put up with my meddling ways. The hugging, the indoor sleepovers and all the medication I had to force down - she never lost any of her beautiful nature.
We miss her dreadfully and love her endlessly. Here is my darling girl on her last day. Staring up at me and no doubt wondering why she never led the normal life of a chicken. Why there was chocolate cake, cushions to sleep on, cuddles, Vet visits, air conditioning and a lot of posing for photos such as these - and hopefully, she knew that we gave her the very best life we possibly could. Certainly that is our aim for all of our girls, every day.
Ruby - Friday 12th October, 2012.