And then there were three…Sunset lost another chicken today

August 30, 2011 | By | Comments (6)


Carmelita (left), with Ruby, a couple of years ago.
(Photo: Elizabeth Jardina)


I thought Carmelita, our second Rhode Island Red, would outlive all our other chickens. She’s always been as healthy as a little horse, with shiny, supple feathers and a kind of street-savvy attitude, if you can even say that about a chicken. She was still laying reddish-brown eggs, even at age 4, which is like Methuselah for a laying chicken. I imagined her ruling the roost when the others were in their dotage.

I’d seen all four of our surviving chickens on Saturday and threw down some kitchen scraps for them. Nothing odd, just kale and some herbs. And they were all prancing around in usual style.

On Sunday, Angela—one of our retesters from the Sunset test kitchen—was showing some friends around the garden late in the afternoon, and she saw Carmelita’s dark-red body lying under the mugo pine tree in the coop. Clearly dead. I missed the phone call bearing the news, and listened to it only at midnight, when it was far too late to do anything about the situation. Plus, I was out of town.

Tony Soria, our operations manager, very kindly buried her this morning. He said that she was untouched, so apparently no predator killed her. And the coop looked untouched too; no telltale rips in the chicken wire or dug-out dirt beneath it. What in the world killed her?

All I can imagine is that she ate something that was very, very bad for her, something she found that the others didn’t. When I arrived at Sunset this afternoon, I looked all around the coop and saw nothing that could’ve done the damage. The other chickens, although jumpy, seemed fine.

So this little life passes from the planet. I’m not sentimental about it, the way I was when Ruby, my favorite chicken, died several months ago. But because of the service she gave (all those eggs!), and also the effort we invested in her, she deserves respect.

Rest in peace, Carmelita.


  1. Margaret

    Yuck, I find those little deposits in my back yard. I didn’t know they were raccoon or ‘possum. I thought a coyote was visiting us!

    August 31, 2011 at 7:41 pm
  2. tina k (friend of nugget)

    Ok, now I remember. The raccoon feces can have parasites that cause neurological issues in some of the SF flock.

    August 31, 2011 at 4:33 pm
  3. tina k (friend of nugget)

    I often see small poops that look like they are from a small dog in my yard as well. These are from either raccoons or opossums. I’m pretty sure it’s opossums because I see them all the time, but we also have raccoons. Since we let the chickens free range in the backyard during the day, the vet says to be sure to look for the animal poops and remove them daily. Raccoon poops carry something (bacteria, fungus or disease, I can’t remember) that can be fatal to birds. There are many problems associated with raccoon feces in the wild flock of parrots in San Francisco.

    August 31, 2011 at 4:01 pm
  4. Margo

    Thank you, Rena and Carmelita. Yes, it’s such a mystery. Although I did find something that looked suspiciously like hawk poop (something that looks like it could’ve come from a small dog) in the yard.

    How a hawk could’ve been inside—and left the body alone—is still more mysterious. These are the times when I wish I had Coop-Cam.

    Rena, I too would like to bring in some fresh, bouncy young chickens. We’ll explore.

    August 30, 2011 at 11:35 pm
  5. tina k (friend of nugget)

    I’m sorry to hear about Carmelita. Hopefully whatever it was did not cause her to suffer.

    August 30, 2011 at 6:59 pm
  6. Rena Takahashi

    Very sorry to hear about Carmelita. Was just reading’s blog, and they just lost a hen. Seems the gals just go go go until one day they just don’t, without any warning.
    Is the Sunset staff thinking of introducing some pullets to the flock anytime soon? I sure hope you keep up the flock in your garden – it has been inspiring to so many of your readers!

    August 30, 2011 at 2:53 pm

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