Portrait Gallery 117



Tempest is our 9-year-old hen. She was one of three chicks purchased from a farm store at Eastertime. One of the trio turned out to be a rooster; we were all afraid of him and had to find him another home as soon as he reached adolescence. Her companion hen died about five years ago, but Tempest continues to thrive. Although she is flockless, aging, and has not laid an egg in the past year, she seems otherwise content. I feel that my many cats keep her company (and one or two are particularly fond of her).

When I Google “life span of chickens” I get results indicating everything from 2 years to 20 years. This large range of expectancies makes me wonder how many hens have actually lived out their natural lives and how much people know about them. Perhaps the rise in popularity of backyard chickens will help answer some of these questions.

On New Year's Day of 2013, Tempest had some sort of fit/stroke/anxiety attack in her coop. We don't know what happened – the coop was locked and secure during this episode. She definitely fell off her roost and panicked, throwing herself repeatedly into the sides of her cage. Her eyes were oozing and crusted over, and she refused to eat for 10 days. We contacted a veterinarian who told us chickens could not be given medications without approval from the USDA, and sometimes they die while awaiting this approval. Euthanasia for her would have cost several hundred dollars due to the complications of securing humane treatment for "farm" animals.

While she convalesced in the laundry room, we nursed her back to health, applying antibiotic ointment to her eyes. We weren't sure she would recover her eyesight, but she has returned to the back yard and although her vision is not perfect, she functions very well. She won't go near her coop anymore and now roosts in the cat bed on the back porch. We don't mind this except for having to spray off the porch every day.

We love Tempest and her health emergency has made us realize how much she will be missed when she does finally pass on.



Jennifer Prescott