Chicken TV Season 7

Holly in Season 3 (2020) of Chicken TV. Photo by Jane Brown.


By Jane D. Brown

Over the past couple of years, we’ve gotten hooked on watching Chicken TV. And just like on regular TV, our favorite show featuring our small backyard flock has seasons and episodes. Often at the end of a season, some of the key characters suffer crazy accidents, get an incurable disease, or simply disappear, not to return in the next season. We’ve experienced all of those possibilities.

This season, it was Holly’s turn to be written out of the script. Holly was always a steady, reliable, shy character. For six and a half years that helped her survive. She was the first to duck for cover when the hawk swooped in, unlike her sister, Honey, who was ambushed in the middle of the yard. Holly stood back while the others gobbled down treats, but always found the morsels the others had missed in their urgency. Unlike her other sisters, Hunter and Coco, she never got sick, who had to be isolated and force-fed expensive antibiotics at the end of last season. 

Eventually, Holly, a Gold-Laced Wyandotte, became the leader of the flock, mostly by attrition and seniority. As new coop mates were introduced, she found she could be first at the food, get the best roost, and the dustiest hole for her daily bath. By then she’d played every part, knew everything there was to know about being a chicken at our house. She stopped laying eggs two years ago, but she’d done her duty in that department and deserved a laid-back retirement. She got elegantly plump.

A couple of months ago, she began her annual molt. Her beautiful reddish brown feathers outlined in black, piled up in the coop. Feathers flew all around when she shook off the dust of her bath. Then one day I noticed that she looked roughed up, like somebody or something had wrestled with her. I checked her out, but couldn’t see any wounds. The next day she was limping, not wanting to put weight on her right foot.

I turned to the helpful online chicken community once again — “old chicken limping.” I learned it could be a number of things, including bumble foot, leg mites, and a couple of unpronounceable ailments that usually affected younger chickens. Further inspection suggested none of those things. I concluded she had been attacked by the hawk, had pulled away, and in the process, sprained her leg. I tried to get her to sit quietly in the crate we keep for chicken sequestration, but she wasn’t having it – too confining, too alone. Let me out!

So we put her back in the big coop. She looked miserable sitting on the floor, especially as the others were let out to wander in the yard. The limp got worse as she hopped to drink, eat, and get up the ladder to her roost. We decided it was time to let her go.

Chicken farmers are encouraged to “cull” their flocks of lame, sick and non-egg layers. It’s clear that I am not a real chicken farmer anymore. Our little chicken flock are our pets, just like Zeke, our dachshund. We spend hundreds of dollars a year keeping him healthy. And, when he is too old to live a good life, we will help him die, as we have for his two predecessors Wally and Jack.

So that’s what we did for Holly. She was an old chicken who probably wouldn’t have lived much longer. Even if her leg improved and she rejoined the free rangers, the hawk would be back, and Holly would be the most vulnerable. I’d rather not have the hawk know our chickens are fair game.

We’ll miss Holly, our steadfast gal, and so will our other chickens. They’ll need to sort out who is the top girl now. They’ll be all the wiser because of Holly’s watchful presence and modeling of good chicken behavior. We’ll mourn the end of the season starring Holly, and look forward to seeing who’s who in the next season of Chicken TV.  

Jane D. Brown taught in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media for 35 years and has lived in Chapel Hill since 1977.

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