Janet passed away in my arms at 11:20pm on Thursday, September 6, 2012 after a fast-moving illness that didn’t respond to treatment. She was a rescued hen who came to us in July 2010.
Janet actually wasn’t our chicken, she was Olly Astro’s chicken. When we agreed to take in Olly Astro, we arrived at the vet to find Olly had a friend. (Homeless chickens always have friends so you should never trust them to show up anywhere alone.)
We didn’t want to separate these two friends, so we brought them both home to join Olivia, our only other hen at the time.
From the moment Janet arrived, she was a little bit of a weirdo, in the best way. She just really knew how to be herself and not care what anyone else thought about it. She went her own way and did her own thing, and enjoyed every minute of it. She was kind of a laid back hippie chick.
I always tell the new rescues to pick their own names, and then usually at night their name comes to me. When Janet’s name came to me, I talked to her the next morning and said “that’s kind of an odd name for a chicken. Why don’t you sleep on it one more night.” I thought it was a dumb name. But sure enough, the next day I woke up and it still seemed like her name was Janet, so I let her keep the name.
Each hen has their own distinct voice, and Janet’s cluck had a rhythm to it that reminded me of the song “I Gotta Be Me” by Sammy Davis, Jr. She’d say “guuh guhga ga guuuuuh” all the time to me, and I’d sing “I gotta be meeeeee” back to her, which I’m sure my neighbors appreciated. It was such an odd song but it sure seemed to fit Janet’s personality, and she sang it all the time.
Janet was well-liked in the yard, by all the ducks and clucks. Here Carol preens her face for her, which is pretty amazing if you know Carol.
Jan Jan didn’t sit on my lap much or peck at me to pet her face or hound me for treats, she just did her own thing and was a good, good chicken.
Of all the chickens, Janet had the most beautiful feathers. They were just the richest, thickest, furriest-looking feathers of anyone in the yard, which was kind of surprising since Janet had her share of health problems in her life.
Janet was always in the aviary when I needed her to be, was nearly always kind to all the other hens and rescues, and was basically an easy-going hen who enjoyed life to the fullest.
Because she did have some health problems, she learned to trust me pretty well over the past two years. I had to wash off her backside at least once a week, and she learned pretty quickly that while it was scary, it would make her more comfortable and keep her happy.
Her trust in me was very helpful over the past week as her health faded fast. She was having neurological problems and balance problems and tremors or seizures, but because she felt safe, she didn’t really seem to mind. That made my life so much easier to know that she was comfortable and care free, even in her illness.
She took well to her make-shift hospital bed and was calm and peaceful even while losing her ability to balance and move.
In the past week we spent hours together, just talking and snoozing. I helped keep her head from spasming by holding it for her so she could eat and drink better. All the while trying to treat her and find a solution with the vets to help her improve.
She perked up briefly after a morning visit to the vet yesterday to get some fluids, but by evening I could tell she was on her way out. I let her be alone in her crate for a while but she called out to me a few times, so I placed her on my chest and she rested peacefully for a while. Then her breathing started to shift and change, and I just knew she didn’t have much more time here. At her very last breath, she woke up for one moment and flapped her wings once as she left her body and was… gone.
It’s never easy to say goodbye to a feathered kid, but honestly, it’s definitely easier when they make it easy on me. And Janet did that very well. She didn’t fuss and she wasn’t stressed out. She wasn’t scared and she didn’t fight any treatment. She was just Janet, the happy-go-lucky, laid back hen.
I am definitely going to miss her in the yard. Not everyone is as easygoing as Janet was, so her calm demeanor and peaceful attitude will definitely be missed. But apparently it was her time to go, and I wish her safe travels to whatever’s next, and thank her for all her wonderful time here with us.
Rest in peace, Jan Jan. I love you.