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A family chicken worthy of an obituary

A family chicken worthy of an obituary

Big Mama made it to the other side.

The Rhode Island Red chicken, who once lived indoors, died over the weekend, prompting her owners to post a paid obituary in The Eagle on Tuesday.

Not every chicken deserves an obituary, but Big Mama was special, owner Stephanie Sword said.

>>WATCH: "Goodbye Big Mama"<<

The Swords — Stephanie, her husband, Gregory, and their two sons — adopted the chicken in September 2013 after a family that had raised her in a Houston apartment decided to have her euthanized.

A veterinarian convinced the family to give her up for adoption, and the Swords heard about her through an email distributed to the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine.

“We were hooked instantly” after seeing a grainy photo of a skinny chicken looking at herself in the mirror, Sword wrote in the obituary for her bird.

Sword said Big Mama flourished as part of the family’s existing flock.

But because she started her life living in a Houston apartment, it took her a while to get used to the outdoor life and being around other chickens, Sword said, adding that she had a few peculiar habits.

“She refused to go in the chicken coop at times, and she would try to come into the house,” said Sword, a graduate student. In bad weather, she’d stay at the back door and sleep on the patio furniture.

But over time, “she came into her own and flourished as a chicken should: living in a flock, outdoors, free-ranging.”

Stephanie Sword radio interview on Big Mama
Stephanie Sword does a radio interview about the beloved family chicken Big Mama.

“She was a happy chicken from that point on, and we were happy to have her for as long as we did,” Sword said.

Big Mama, who had been spayed before the family adopted her because of a life-threatening reproductive disease, became a member of the family, Sword said.

She even earned a place in last year’s family Christmas photo.

Sword said they noticed Big Mama had been slowing down recently, and on Sunday, when she was the only chicken that didn’t come out of the coop, they knew.

“She was in her favorite spot in her coop,” Sword said. “She just went to sleep, and that was it.”

It was comforting to know that Big Mama died naturally in her favorite spot, she said -- “a dignified ending for a dignified chicken.”

Sword said the family decided a paid obituary would be a way to spread the message that every life is worth saving.

“Big Mama was very close to being euthanized, but through the kindness of friends and vet techs and veterinarians that saved her, she made her way to us and had this beautiful life as part of our family,” she said. “We really felt if any chicken deserves an obituary, it was Big Mama.”

The story made the rounds on social media Tuesday, with commenters across the internet offering condolences mixed with humor.

Katy Jackson, who owns the Dixie Chicken with her sister, posted on Facebook that she planned to frame Big Mama’s obituary and hang it on the wall of the iconic College Station bar.

“It’s only right,” she wrote.

Big Mama lives on.

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Colby Pelzel writes in the video description, "Sad to say that Big Mama passed away this last week... My thinking was that [Big Mama] might al…


The Eagle staff won 28 statewide journalism awards in the annual Texas Associated Press Managing Editors contest.

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