I sprinkle layer pellets in the runs near each coop, pour the 50 pounds of feed into the feed barrel, and open the egg door on the big coop.
I see Runt, dead, in the bedding.
'Huh, Runt died.' I say quietly to myself.
When she was 4 days old, the other chicks pecked her ear and made her bleed. I separated her so that she could heal. The other chicks didn't let her eat. She was at the bottom of the pecking order.
Months later I put her in with the flock, they all grew and produced eggs.
One severe winter, a mink taunted the flock from outside the fencing. The stronger chickens took the challenge and died. Runt and Whipped Cream, well, they had the courage of a chicken so they avoided the fracas.
Runt slowly stopped laying eggs and occasionally produced a mini-egg the size of the tip of my thumb.
The farmer in me knew that she had to go, but my heart pushed the dreaded task to the bottom of my to do list.
Today, I look at her as she lay silently in the dirty bedding on the floor.
I walk down the hill to take my hoe from the fenced in garden. I walk back and use it to gently pull her into a shovel.
Her feet are nestled under her body, claws turned.
In the best way that God's creatures can, Runt died peacefully while roosting in her sleep.