Once I'd quickly processed and suppressed the emotional side of the situation, I went into "dad mode" and began exploring, rapid-fire, all the questions popping into my head:
How do I get her out of the coop? Is it something contagious? Is ZsuZsu ok? Where are my gloves? What do I do with the body? Do we bury her in the yard? Do we dispose of her in the garbage? Will she smell by the time the garbage is collected on Friday? Why did she die? What did I do wrong? How do I tell the kids? Do we get another chicken? Two more chickens? How do I introduce ZsuZsu to new companions? Where will we get them? and on and onI ultimately decided I need to know what happened to Sophia before I can think of bringing another urban chicken into our backyard.
Thanks to the Santa Cruz Pet Chicken avian flu workshop I went to earlier this year, I knew that I could get a free necropsy performed on Sophia at the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory over at UC Davis. While it costs the big-Ag chicken farmers to get the service performed, for us backyard folks in California, it's free.
All I had to do was wrap Sophia's body in two plastic bags and then put it in the refrigerator until the lab opened up Monday morning and drop her off there.
The only problem? No room in our fridge. I'd have to store her in a cooler on ice. Well, truth be told, our fridge could've been completely empty but my lovely wife wouldn't have let me store Sophia in there. Not enough Lysol in the world to disinfect the mental imagery.
So, I double-bagged Sophia and put her in our old collapsible cooler with ice around her in zip-loc bags (no, I didn't want to have to deal with wet feathers). I placed the cooler in the corner of the garage, and for the next 36 hours, added ice as needed to keep her cool.
Then I woke up at dawn Monday morning to drive the 99 miles to UC Davis to the lab, arriving shortly before 8am. I parked the car across the lot from the receiving dock.
The nice lady at the receiving desk gave me a simple form to fill out and a white plastic tub to place Sophia's body in (still wrapped in the bags, of course).
They'll email me preliminary results in a couple days with final results expected in two weeks.
As I walked out of the lab, I realized I'd parked right next to the dumpster. How convenient. I flipped the collapsible cooler into the dumpster before I hopped in the car to make the drive home. Wouldn't ever be using that particular cooler for food or drinks again. Not enough Lysol in the world to clean out the mental imagery of carrying Sophia in there.
Photo by zirofar on Flickr