I thought my pet hen was sunbathing - but she was dead and that opened up a can of worms

Susan 'Suzie' Bell the Light Sussex chicken was only about three when she died
Susan 'Suzie' Bell the Light Sussex chicken was only about three when she died -Credit:LancsLive

Back in the day the death of a goldfish was often dealt with by flushing it down the toilet. But, strictly speaking, that's a big no-no.

Last week I was bereft after I discovered that one of our pet chickens had passed away. Some might snigger at the thought of grieving the loss of a hen but my birds mean the world to me.

I've written extensively about our flock and the way in which they are more like pets than farm animals. Suzie even hit the headlines when she featured on Channel 4's Sunday Brunch in the show's 'TV for pets' feature.


Our chickens and ducks are part of the family and they have as much personality and character as a dog or cat. They all know their own names and I can't imagine life without them.

So when I found Suzie, who is a Light Sussex hen we have always joked about as being 'fake' due to her lack of black feather markings, one of my first questions was "what on earth do I do with her body?"

Suzie playing in the snow last Christmas
Suzie playing in the snow last Christmas -Credit:LancsLive

It's illegal to bury a pet anywhere except the home where they lived or at a registered pet cemetery. So you can't bury them in a public place, such as a local park, or even at a friend's or relative's house if you don't have a garden yourself.

Furthermore, there are restrictions on when you can bury a pet on your own land - if it's within 250m of a groundwater supply for human consumption then you could, in theory, end up facing the wrath of the Environment Agency. So what can you do?

The formal advice is to 'dispose' of your pet which I can only assume is a kinder way of saying "chuck them in your wheelie bin or take them to the local tip". But even that's open to interpretation and I can't imagine a more undignified way of dealing with their death.

The only 'official' alternatives would be to pay to have your pet either cremated or buried. But for most of us, and especially amid the cost of living crisis, it's an unaffordable option.

For a 'small pet' weighing a couple of kilos or less you're talking around £100 and if you want to bury your pet at an official cemetery it would be about £500.

The cross I've made for Suzie
The cross I've made for Suzie -Credit:LancsLive

So it's no surprise that many people end up burying their beloved pets in a public place such as a park or woodland area. And I suspect that they didn't think twice about their actions being prohibited.

As far as poor Suzie is concerned she will be laid to rest in a secret location. I've made a cross which I plan on placing somewhere close to my home so that my little girl can smile and remember the happy times we had with Suzie whenever we walk past it.

The sad thing is, unless the rules are either clarified or relaxed, most families will be left in as much of a quandary as I found myself when Suzie died. We wouldn't treat people like that - so why do the powers that be think it's acceptable for animals?