6. Dec, 2015

Do animals grieve?

We are not the only animals on this planet that experience grief. For many years, I have watched animals grieve in very much the same way as humans and today was one of those days.

       As a young child my father taught me that all animals should be shown respect and he talked about the grief they felt for each other. The first time I saw this for myself, was when our cat caught a magpie and left the poor dead creature on our doorstep. As I cradled the large black and white bird, I was alarmed at the screeching and screaming of another magpie in a tree nearby. It cried pitifully for the next couple of hours.

        Sea lions also wail pitifully when having to watch killer whales eat their babies and dolphins mourn for sometime after the death of their young.

        Back at our home for waifs and strays, I have endured many times the harrowing cries of a sheep when its lamb has been hit by a car on the common close by.  The same applies to horses and cattle.

        But stranger still are the hens. Not so long ago I witnessed an amazing sight. I thought it was odd, that despite the sunshine, there was not a hen in sight. I wondered around the garden and down by the pond but still no sign of them. Remembering that one young girl was broody, I opened up the henhouse door and to my surprise, they were all inside. I watched for a moment in disbelief that they could all be laying eggs or possibly gone broody, but then I saw the reason for their strange behaviour. Our oldest hen, Freebie, was dying.

        As I have said before, hens always know when another is sick or dying. One will almost always stay close, until the end. But here were all my hens, standing in a circle around poor Freebie. She died shortly afterwards, peacefully.

        Grief is a powerful emotion and although we think differently to other animals, our feelings are quite often the same.