The Undead Chicken


This is Rufina. She’s new to our household.

She’s quiet and doesn’t take up much space, mostly sits on her perch or in her ceramic nest all day. She moves around slowly. If you are really gentle, she lets you pick her up.

We sit by the pond together in the morning, before everyone else gets up.


Last Thursday, I answered a friend’s call on Facebook for someone to take this chicken. Isabella and I drove to my friend’s house in the South Valley, put her in a bin, and brought her home. I didn’t think she’d actually still be alive today.

My friend had posted this story Thursday morning:

The neighbor gave us fresh chickens last night for cooking up. He shot them in the head with gun and handed them over the fence. We bagged them and put in freezer for today. Evan gets home, opens freezer and one bird is perched fully alive, very cold, and pissed off.
Chase ensues… !! We now have a blind undead chicken in our yard.

Anybody want it?

I’m not sure why anyone would shoot chickens in the head.

But when I read the story, I couldn’t help but admire this chicken’s tenacity. She is courageous. She made her way out of a plastic bag inside a freezer and survived for thirty-six hours. After being shot in the head.  I figured any animal that fought that hard to live deserved a little help, if only for a day or two.

The chicken hasn’t made any effort to eat like a normal chicken. Because, of course, she can’t see where to peck. (There isn’t much point in force-feeding a blind chicken.) But she does drink, so I’ve started blending up borrowed chicken food and water and giving her that. She seems content, grooming herself sometimes, showing no signs of pain or anxiety. And still, she will die.

But until then, we will enjoy each of her borrowed mornings by the pond, the sound of birds and running water, the sun on her feathers, expecting nothing.

I’m not sure why I have a blind, undead chicken in my studio. But here is one of my favorite poems, by Laura Gilpin.

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.


36 thoughts on “The Undead Chicken

  1. She is wonderful. I am glad you went and got her. She may surprise you and stick around for longer than you may imagine. Scatter food around her water bowl, too. We have had a number of blind birds who knew to look around water for food.

    • Thanks for the information and support, Red! It’s funny, when I think of chickens and roosters, I always think of you — maybe because of your mom’s collection! I’ll try that with scattering food. Were the blind birds you had born that way, or did they become blind later?

      • Both. We had a peacock who wad blinded as an adolescent and geese which were born blind. Their hearing gets much better, and they learn to see with their feet.

  2. ManOHman, Laura: you HAVE GOT TO WRITE A BOOK. I LOVE reading “you”…….so much so that I’m actually envious, loving to write, that I’m not “you”!! ha. keep ’em coming….. xoxox

    • Thank you John! I’m hoping she’ll benefit from all the psychic fandom and love coming her way… Hmmm, feedbag. Didn’t think of that one but it might just be terrifying for her. Plus, how would I strap it onto her little chicken head? Might require a full-body harness and after all that, spoon feeding might be easier. But thanks for the suggestion!

      • John alerted me of your tale and Rufina.He thought you might like to hear from a fellow Chicken
        We rescued five chickens a couple of years go.

        My daughter named them after Formula 1 drivers!
        One of them, Kimi (Raikkonnen) has recently developed what we think is Merek’s disease.
        For a week she barely moved having lost all muscle/ability to move in her legs.
        We’ve been hand feeding her and varying her diet to help restore muscle. We’ve included vitamins and fish food pellets.

        We’re also helping her stand using one of the dog leads as a sling.
        Today my daughter reported that she managed a few steps unaided!
        Was a cause of some celebration. Maybe we will see recovery?

        Hang in there. I’m sure Rufina appreciates everything you do for her.

        • Hi, thanks so much for your comment and for sharing the stories of your rescue hens. They are incredible creatures. I hope that Kimi has recovered. What great care you have shown her… I had a scare with Rufina some years back where she had some kind of fungal growth in her beak & was losing weight. I took her to the vet but unfortunately most vets don’t know much about chickens because they tend to be killed instead of saved. I learned a lot from a woman who goes by The Chicken Chick (blog & Facebook). She’s an absolute wealth of knowledge and answers questions too.

          Unfortunately, Rufina is no longer with me. You can read about it in my most recent post… 😦

  3. O my god, Laura. You make me feel like such a slacker with my little rescue 8 year old dog who has cysts, half her teeth, eye problems, and seems to be a little hard of hearing (unless she still doesn’t know her new name). I wish you and your plucky chicken the best of luck. Marilyn

    • Oh, Marilyn. Your dog sounds wonderful — I never knew that about her. They all deserve to be honored, don’t they? I’m happy you’ve rescued, as well…

  4. What a blessing. Ruffina is a lesson for us all. Thank you for saying yes to rescue and nurture in the face of our own blindness.
    I hope you’ll change my pampers when the time comes.

    • Yescue, yes to rescue 🙂 I can handle blind chickens but I’ll have to work my way up to humans in Pampers… isn’t that what grandchildren are for??

    • Thanks, Guap. I’ve gone back and forth a lot about if it’s cruel to “keep” an animal like this alive. But then I think, I’m not keeping her alive, she is. So… yeah. I hope it’s a peaceful time for her.

    • Uh, we prefer the term “half-alive,” Stacie. As in, “half-marathon”. 🙂 An achievement in its own right! Thanks for stopping by in the midst of your summer mayhem 😉

  5. Laura – Rufina is so lucky you came along to give her even one more day in the sun – this will surely be to your credit, if anyone is counting! Looks like she likes your garden, too. The poem is a treat! Thanks from the universe. Maggi

    • What a lovely comment Maggi, thank you! It’s not so much me as her — this chicken really wants to live! And is apparently content to just hang out, at least for a while. [happy]

  6. I hope Rufina will make it! Thank you for saving her, at least for now. I’m going to share with a couple of my friends who raise them – they may have tips, at least for feeding. Tracy, Joanne, and Candace. Good luck!

  7. Laura, you have a very big heart – and you also have a fantastic sense of humor/wonderful approach with your writing! I do hope Rufina thrives in the warm and lovely environment you’ve given to her!

    • Thanks so much Patricia! Rufina continues to live on my studio porch… funny girl. Will be updating soon — great to see you here, as always 🙂

  8. OMG I can’t believe this story! Amazing. God bless you for giving this chicken a home. What madness to shoot a chicken. I hope Rufina learns how to eat. I love that you sit by the pond together in the morning. Best of luck to you.

  9. Wow, glad you saved her. Reminds me of Mike the Headless Chicken, who lived for 18 months after meeting the axe. I think he finally succumbed to a kernel of corn. Apparently no one knew how to give a headless chicken the Heimlich maneuver.

    • Yeah, Mike the Headless Chicken has a statue to himself in Colorado. Pure celebrity. I read about how they fed him — with corn straight down the gullet! Never underestimate the will to survive, I guess.

  10. I’m so glad you kept her! I hope she lives for a long long long time. What a brave and determined soul, I can’t believe she survived but i am more than grateful. Little miracle bird<33

Talk to me! I spend too much time alone in the studio.

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