Thursday, February 18, 2010
Josephine, September 15-Februaray 5, 2010
Every time I think I have some control over this chicken thing, that is, I can raise a chicken from a young age, bond with some little, or big thing about its personality, and feel confident that I am acting responsibly for another animal's well-being, I am brought back to the harsh reality that life is so fleeting for the smallest of beings and I am not in charge.
That's what happened two weeks ago when I let the girls out into the yard after I returned from an early morning run. I've done that dozens of times...the automatic letting them out to play and explore, search out tasty morsels (even in February!) and just be chickens. I went in to shower without giving them another thought and then did my usual visual search of the girls in the yard after. Since there are some blind spots in the yard I wasn't concerned that I couldn't see them and I went out to the kitchen back steps to check on everyone. Some bird flew out from under the steps and I thought at first it was a morning dove, just by the flutter of its wings. But as I looked at it up in the tree I realized this was a hawk and with absolute dread I ran out and looked under the porch steps where I found Josephine, already dead.
I'm the kind of person that says a silent prayer over road kill and I cannot stand to see another animal suffer in any manner. So finding Josephine like this was almost unbearable and I was consumed with grief. The hawk kept watch in that tree for 2 more hours and it then moved right into my driveway where it sat for another hour staring at the porch. I know the hawk was just doing what it needed to but it was awful.
The other 4 girls, being more 'street-wise' had scrambled for the back of the yard where they were hiding in the pile of Christmas trees I have gathered over the past few years. My guess is that Josephine got caught near the driveway and headed for the safe spot under the steps, or so she thought. (Am I giving too much credit to a small chicken?) I was surprised the hawk followed her there and I am just grateful it was not long that Josephine suffered.
Naomi, bless her heart, was there for me and together we buried Josephine on that cold winter morning. Naomi read from the Book of Common Prayer and I just cried a lot. Josephine joined Althea and Eunice in our backyard where we have set aside space for our beloved girls. She couldn't have been a sweeter chicken...she loved to climb on my back when she thought the big girls were picking on her. And she faithfully played with Hazel, whether it was in the basement or out in the tractor.
My next thought was how was Hazel ever going to blend in with the other hens now that she didn't have Josephine. I know I'm talking about these chickens like they were my children but that's sometimes how they feel. Since Josephine's death I've tried to get Hazel out to the tractor more and to let all the girls mingle with supervision. No one left the coop for 2 days after the hawk attack as I was a wreck about a return visit. Since then I've seen no sign of that hawk though another one visited this week and I scurried everyone back in the coop when it came by.
I've now received the 'Hen Saver', a heavy cotton apron that Hazel will wear to keep the others from pecking her. All I need to do is add a neck piece and I hope by this weekend to have Hazel try it out. If it works, I'll let her start spending nights in the coop over the next week.
We head out to Sharon's mid-week for a quick visit and Sharon has a little hen in mind for us to bring back. I'm not sure whether to take it...another hen, another name, another chance something will happen to it. But then again, it could be a little spark plug and a hen that will add personality to the group. I won't know until she (maybe K something?) comes back with us.
Certainly, raising chickens has had more drama, more heartache, and more pleasure than I ever would have expected and I have no regrets. I pick up those glorious eggs almost every day and I give thanks for the bounty I receive. I'll just have to continue on this journey, wherever it leads, and be grateful for all I been given. Thank you Josephine.