I created MY Chicken Kingdom, where I thought I reigned (with the CE, of course) as potentate supreme. I was convinced that by prettifying a little patch of dirt under the oaks I could effect a micro happily-ever-after for hens, that the right combination of fussing and care and hardware cloth and fencing could guarantee one secluded little safe haven in an unpredictable world.
I should know better by now. I guess it’s human nature to put ourselves in charge, to think that we can embark on life projects and determine the outcome. If/then is such an seductive and symmetrical ruse. One by one I’ve made the mistake and learned the hard way: If I work hard, life will be easy (Wrong-o.) If I sacrifice enough, my children will be perfect. (Well, not exactly.) If I invest carefully, I will never lose money. (Ha!)
Maybe it seemed like I wasn’t asking too much if I applied if/then to poultry. After all, it’s lowering the stakes from raising children to raising chickens, right? If I apply myself, I can at least successfully care for four hens. Wrong again. Lily is gone and we will never know why.
I’ve Googled “sudden death in young chickens” several times in the last few days and while I’ve learned nothing about what may have killed her, I’ve learned that it is not at all unusual to lose a perfectly healthy young chicken.
“Yesterday the Australorp just died. No warning. No signs of foul play. Not a ruffled feather. They free range in the daytime when I’m home and I went out early evening and she was just lying in a sandy spot, dead. She’d layed an egg in the morning, did her usual clucking and running around the yard when I let her into the yard late in the morning…”
“I lost 2 this week. one was over a year old and another was 5 months old. I found them on the ground below their roosts…. they were healthy.”
“Melanie went out to tend the chickens this evening and found Sophia in a heap, expired, in the back corner of the run, just outside the door of the coop. Not sure why she died. There was no sign of suffering. She was just lying down in the corner, eyes closed, motionless.”
So today, instead of counting eggs, I’m just counting chickens. We check on them several times a day, just to make sure they’re alive. So far, so good: Amelia, Autumn and Hope all seem fine.
Another mistake at which I have become an expert is that of getting overly attached to pets (Oh, really? You think someone who actually writes a Chicken Blog might have a problem like that?) We’ve lost enough of them that we should know how to do it by now, but we manage to be surprised each time.
Their names evoke a memory of a particular time in our lives: Gypsy, Huckleberry, Jasmine, Avis, Chirp, Peaches, Baby – silly cats, dogs and birds that enriched and enlivened our days, made us laugh when things weren’t all that funny and made us cry when they departed. I miss them still.
So I learn (once again) that I am not in charge. That I care a little too much. And that things go on. The other three hens are on a supervised bug-hunting expedition at this moment. They have already re-choreographed their hunting and pecking ballet from a quartet to a trio. Life is good. Rest in peace, Lily.