Be well. Practice big medicine.

Newman | The Positive Paramedic Project #33 Shania left this morning


A nugget of EMS organizational wisdom every day. #33 Shania left this morning

Being a good usher means being able to extend your services to creatures, too.

Shania, our Araucana hen, died this morning after a long, remarkable battle with the bad stuff chickens get on occasion. She was a proud, stubborn bird and I really liked her alot. I always thought she looked a bit like a golden eagle with her gold and brown feathers.

Becel, Shania’s old coop-mate, actually seemed to know something was wrong. She was uncharacteristically quiet this morning. Becel is usually quite boisterous and so I get her fed and watered first. This morning she was so quiet I decided to check on Shania first. The wisdom of chickens.

I found Shania down in her coop. She was taking agonal breaths. It got quite cool last night and with the heavy rain it was very damp for a chicken that had been battling with a gastro infection for weeks. She had received a de-worming treatment yesterday and my guess is that her already fragile immune system called it a day in the cool of the night.

I took her in my arms, supported her head, and cleaned out a section of the shed. I put Shania down on a bed of shavings in a small cage we use on occasion. I knew she was dying but I thought it would be somehow easier for her to let go if I warmed the environment a bit. I plugged in a heat lamp above the cage and waited for the inevitable.

Shania never regained consciousness however she did make a final gesture before she passed. She spread her wings as if she was going to fly, tucked them back in, took a final breath and died. It was a quiet rather beautiful end for a chicken who had brought a great deal of joy to our family.

Shania was an Easter-Egger. She was part Araucana and so when she layed eggs they were a delicate shade of blue. It was always quite amazing to behold when one of Shania’s eggs graced the palm of your hand. Tasted the same as other fresh-laid eggs [as opposed to uh, supermarket-fresh]. Just looked entirely and extraordinarily different. Shania’s plumage looked a bit like she was wearing an extravagant costume with golden feathers on her neck.

She certainly wasn’t the friendliest member of the crew. Actually, Shania was downright ornery when given the opportunity to express herself with beak or feet. Picking her up was always an interesting exercise in faked assertiveness – because, really, I’d just as soon get the heck out of there.

Once during the winter, I was working inside the coop to spruce it up, raking through the shavings, shoveling out the poop, and refilling their water tank (heated). Normally the ladies were quite content to explore the shed while I worked in the coop. I’d leave the outside door open and they’d stand on the sill contemplating the snow and the ice outside. This time however the hens took turns climbing onto the toes of my huge Sorel boots and riding them around the coop while I worked.

So I got my chores done amid a raucous display of cackling, clucking and wing flapping. It was very silly. Right out of a Monty Python skit. Walk this way, I said to myself as I flapped my arms like wings and wandered about with a chicken on each boot top.

And that’s how I will always remember Shania.

I buried her in a nice spot under the pines behind the house and marked the spot with a pile of fieldstones. It was a rainy, misty morning and the weather captured my mood perfectly.

Be well. Practice big medicine.





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