Mixed feelings: sadness, anger and guilt

You’ve probably all experienced grief in some form. Grieving for some one or some thing is different to feeling upset about something bad happening. It goes deeper than that.

Today I’m feeling those mixed feelings I get when I feel true grief. I had to take my youngest chick up to the vet today, and she was so sick that she needed to be put down. Poor little Charlotte!

So I’m very sad at her passing. I’m angry at the breeder for sending me home with chickens that were infected with a virus, and guilty that I couldn’t look after her better. All of these feelings are natural, and some of these feelings are fair.

When you are responsible for a life, however small, you always feel guilty when something bad happens to them. It doesn’t matter whether you did 100% the right thing and looked after them the best you could. There is always guilt. And so, I feel guilty. What could I have done? Apparently, not a whole lot.

The vet told me that there is not much you can do for a virus — there are no medications to give like you would for a bacterial infection. You just have to keep feeding them and looking after them. Well, that is what we did. We brought her inside every night, and made sure she had clean water and fresh food. She must not have been well enough to digest the food, though, because she dropped a lot of weight.

Chickens are really good at hiding that they are sick. This is because in the wild, a sick chicken is a really good target for predators, who will go for the weakest ones first. And the other chickens aren’t kind, they will sometimes peck and harass a sick chicken. Charlotte did a great job of seeming well. Last week when I pointed out her new hen’s tail I had no idea that she was getting thinner and thinner under all that puffy down. I thought she was growing up nicely!

So when she developed a limp on the weekend, we thought she might have jumped down off something and hurt herself. We kept her in the warm and gave her cuddles and that’s all that we could do.

So today I light a candle in my heart for little Charlotte, who was with us for such a short time. I won’t forget.

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