As I write this, Gertrude's stiff little body is on its way to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at UC Davis. After 3 days of hobbling around the coop mostly paralyzed, using her wings, haunches, and beak to ambulate, my beautiful Brabanter finally passed. Ever since Violet and Petunia met their maker, I had planned to send the next chicken that died off to be tested. I found out that UC Davis provides this service for free to folks who own less than 500 birds. Since these tests can be quite pricey if performed by a private lab, I was more than relieved to find out my pocket book wasn't going to continue to take a beating when it came to the chickens. A few plastic bags, a cardboard box, some gel freezer packs and a Jackson to Fedex were all it took to get Gertrude on the way to her necropsy (animal autopsy).
A few folks have expressed concern about the method of shipment, particularly with the unpleasant possibility of leakage. To everyone who has been worried for the poor folks who deliver packages (and I'm sure they thank you for your concern), that's what the plastic bags were for. I, too, was a bit uneasy with shipping a corpse, but apparently people do this kind of thing all the time. According to the lady at CAHFS, "You can send it Fedex and don't worry, you don't have to tell them what you're shipping." Phew! Though just to be sure, I did double bag the bird with extra large plastic bags which wrapped around the chook's thin frame a couple times. In the end, it was more like a quadruple bagging.
The exchange with the man at Fedex was a touch... odd. He wanted me to change boxes. I told him it was impossible; the box was carefully packed. "It's fragile," I said. That's not really a lie. He then picked up the box and asked me if it was frozen. I felt my Operation Send Dead Animal was becoming less and less covert with every dreaded question. As soon as my money hit the table, I shot out the door like a shoplifter who had just finished stuffing loot down her pants.
So now we wait. Meanwhile, I can't bear to put poor Sweet Pea in the run by herself. Until we get the results back, she will be hanging with the goats. They seem to get along, though the goats insist on eating the chicken food and jumping inside the coop. Sweet Pea tolerates their poor manners, if only for the sake of companionship.