Heads cocked and clucking, The chickens follow me, Listening to my prayers, Which are plans for the garden —
I can’t abide angels, overrated Guardians of no one. I believe in these earthly Murmurers patrolling My yard
(poem excerpt by Eric Nelson)
These were the leading ladies of our backyard. Each was unique in how they looked and in their temperament. Shaniqua, the Americana was smart, bossy and the head of the henhouse. She loved to be held. Deliah, the beautiful dark featherfoot was the sweetheart. When she walked, her rear swayed like a woman in a bustle. Lucy, the blond silky sensitive one with a mohawk. She looked tough but was skittish and stayed close to the others. Always.
This morning we discovered a tragedy in the henhouse. Something attacked the girls in the night, leaving Shaniqua and Deliah dead and headless. Lucy was alive and sitting still amidst the disarray of death and feathers, her tiny face bloody and unrecognizable. Horrific is the only way to truly describe what we witnessed. Unbearably cruel and heartbreaking is the sense of loss. When we realized what lay before us, we rushed Lucy to the vet to have her put down. It was the only option. Then, we returned home to bury all three girls together.
As pets, chickens typically live to five years. These hens were well into their 7th. My beloved's kids named them and raised them until he and I got together. Then, they became our hens and moved with us three times. They loved any chance at having free reign of the yard, taking dust baths and overturning our landscape in search of bugs. They delighted in eating handfuls of our table scraps and leftovers. Bread, grapes and pasta were their favorites. Of all their annoying and endearing qualities, what I’ll miss the most are their conversations— the way the chatted it up and filled our yard with their cackles. Without the girls, the yard feels empty and quiet.
We will be repurposing wood from their henhouse to build garden boxes. I like the idea of their habitat becoming a home for growing nourishment. In time, we may begin again with new chicks. But for now, we will hold gratitude for the gifts of our 3 girls…their eggs, their presence, their unique beauty. They will be missed.
P.S. My dear friend Nan wrote this poem upon learning the news of this loss: