How Hildy the Blind Hen Died September 26, 2014

This will probably be my last Hildy story. If you haven’t read the stories about my blind hen Hildy, you may want to start at the beginning.

Read the other posts related to Hildy the blind hen:

  1. Introducing Hildy the blind hen
  2. Hildy the blind hen in the pecking order
  3. Hildy the blind hen and free ranging
  4. Hildy the blind hen learns to eat treats from a hand
  5. Hildy the blind hen figures out foraging

This is how she died–and it’s not much of a tale, really; it’s more of a just a close to her story.

Hildy the blind hen

Hildy the blind hen

About 2 days before Hildy died, she settled on a nest, and fluffed up her feathers. These are really not signs to be alarmed about; they can indicate broodiness. But the same signs—lethargy, ruffled feathers—can sometimes indicate illness. So, I lifted her up and gave her the inspection. She had no injuries under the feathers. She was clear of external parasites, and her legs and feet looked fine. Her comb was a normal color; nares and eyes (well, eye) were clear. Her crop and abdomen felt fine–no obstrutions. Her droppings were normal. One thing Hildy never really did was go broody, but there is a first time for everything.

In most other ways, she was quite normal. Despite her blindness, she was one of our best, most reliable layers. (Interestingly, even blind hens respond to changes in daylight hours that trigger laying.) So despite the fact that her eyes’ ability (or her one eye’s ability) to perceive light was limited, at best, she still went through the regular seasonal changes. She’d molt in the fall, and slow down laying throughout the winter. She’d lay like crazy through spring and summer.

Speckled Sussex hens are occasionally broody, but not Hildy. All her sister-Sussex had gone broody at one time or another, but Hildy had not. However, things had always come slow for her—even learning to go outside. So really, I shouldn’t have been so worried—but I was. I felt ill at ease.

I did another test: I moved her from the nest to see where she’d settle down again, and she moved right back. Signs of broodiness. An ill hen doesn’t especially care where she stands. I did it twice more, moving her further each time, and got the same result. Broody. A broody hen wants to be on her nest specifically; an ill hen just wants to be alone. But despite the fact that she was not acting ill, it just didn’t sit right with me. So I called the vet, and made an appointment, just in case…

But we never made it to the appointment. By the next morning, Hildy had passed away on the nest. She looked peaceful, as if she had just gone in her sleep.

“How old was she?” asked the vet when I called to cancel.

“Seven,” I said. “Or maybe almost 8.”

The vet was sympathetic, and suggested—given the lack of other symptoms—that Hildy had just died of old age.

Yes, old age. Hens can live to the ripe old age of 20 or more… but it is more usually like 7 or 8. It was lovely to think that our little blind hen—a hen so vulnerable and that we worried so much about being picked off by a predator she couldn’t see—had lived her full, happy lifespan, and had then died peacefully in her sleep. But the loss was still devastating.

I would miss her affection and friendliness, and I would miss her beautiful feathers.

Speckled plumage of our blind hen

She couldn’t see how pretty she was!

As well as her loving personality.

Hildy the blind hen ignored the hand offering her treats

No matter where you were in the yard, she wanted to hang out with you.

We buried her on top of our ridge.


A stone owl keeps watch

I tend to think about her this time of year, when the leaves turn.

Goodnight, Hildy


DOROTHY MALM September 26th, 2014

Sorry to hear of her passing. What a beautiful sussex. She had a good life.

I recently lost my two 15-year-old Ameraucanas, Millie and Tillie.
I miss them, but it makes me happy to know they lived a good long life with me.

Sarah G September 26th, 2014

Aww your story made me cry! RIP Hildy…

Bonnie B September 26th, 2014

What an honor it was to have shared time, affection and love with her. I am so sorry for your loss but so glad she was able to do it “her way.”

Sandy September 27th, 2014

How sweet. You & she were lucky to have each other.

mirjam w September 27th, 2014

so sorry to hear loosing a chicken is loosing a friend my oldest was 13 when she died

sue copper January 12th, 2015

Hi…..I’ve been following some of your posts about your Hildy. My “Hildy’s” name is Choc, she has recently gone mostly blind and I worry so much about her. She’ll be 10 in April and is healthy as a horse, and almost as big! She’s a dark Brahma with lovely “eagle” eyes and it saddens me that she’s lost sight in those beautiful eyes. I’ve always fed her treats by hand, but now she has learned to eat and drink from dog food bowls that sit in a raised stand. She leans her chest against her “table” and from there she knows where the bowls are. My concern now is that she doesn’t get any exercise, she just stands in one place, whether indoors or out. This fall I raised 3 little banty chickens that a friend gave me, and they turned out to be 2 roosters and 1 hen. The young roosters now think Choc should be one of their girlfriends, so I can’t even leave her with them for company. So she’s alone much of the time and standing in mostly the same place except when I’m with her, feeding or holding her or carrying her around the yard. (she used to ride in the wheelbarrow) I keep her in a pen in the garage rather than in the henhouse now, because of cold weather and the little roos. Thank you for your stories of Hildy!

Lissa January 19th, 2015

Choc sounds lovely–hopefully you’ll be bale to enjoy her company for many more years. 🙂

Jen June 23rd, 2015

Such a lovely story! We started our first flock 3 years ago and have 1 hen left now (chicks arriving soon!) I grew up on a farm but wanted my suburban kids to have some country roots, too, so we have our little coop in the backyard of our 3/4 acre lot. We buried each hen behind the fenceline and planted daffoldils on top of the grave. This spring we enjoyed those beautiful yellow spots of sunshine and remembered our happy times with the girls.

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