I knew when I saw their burlesque-ish feathers and dirty yellow feet that nothing good could come of me getting too attached to them. Isn’t that like life, to fan something fabulous in front of our faces and then bite us in the arse for getting attached to it? Therefore, I initially kept my distance, sneaking peeks between the palms—watching them strut about my yard, and from time to time skip across my porch, clucking like excited teens on their way to the mall.
I always feel as though I’m being allowed in on a great secret when I sit with nature and it was no different with these hens. Their keen-eyed pecking fascinated me, their proud breasts proof of their badass food fetching skills.
And then the news came that “something” had “gotten” one of our hens. I know, I know, they are not my hens, but the attachment had taken place, and although they didn’t have my last name, they had captured my cautious heart.
The theories weren’t very comforting; “it could have been a python,” the handyman said, leaning against his rake, measuring my reaction. I kept a flat face, refusing to respond to his fear tactics. He resumed raking and speaking, rattling off a shopping list of predators “might have been a panther, coyote, bobcat or even a gator.” My mind examined all the suspects and settled on the python, figuring the death would be quick and clean, but once, Mr. Maintenance showed me the trail of feathers, and the freshly dug hole under the fence, my guess switched to a coyote or a big cat.
After the killing it was hard to watch the 4 hens together without feeling badly about the dead fifth hen. And even though I couldn’t really tell the difference between hen number five and hen number three, the thinning of our flock was causing me to fear for the rest of the girls.
By the end of the week we were down to one lone hen. I was tempted to name her, Lucy because of her brazen presence, plus I figured the name might offer her some protection, after all, other than having a lot of splaining to do to Ricky, Lucy’s life was mostly filled with madcap mayhem, which always ended in laughter, but naming her would have broken the “don’t get attached” rule, so she remained nameless other than ‘The Last Hen’.
I imagined how scary it must have been to be the last hen pecking, knowing that the murderer was hold up someplace close, probably watching her actions and contemplating her thighs.
From the time she had 4 sisters, to her solo scratch across the courtyard, her routine never changed. I’d have been pulling out my feathers with nervousness, but Lucy was calmly enjoying the benefit of being sole scavenger, feasting on the moment, and her newly found freedom, for the owner of the last hen had decided to keep her out of the coop, offering her a running chance from her stalker.
I began feeding her handfuls of hemp hearts. She devoured the fatty treats, while I stood like a statue on the porch, not wanting to disturb the magic that was Lucy.
Then one morning I noticed the silence. Not the silence from no noise, but a stillness that rang so loudly in my heart that it hurt. Writing this I can still feel its weighty presence, a panic of a pause, announcing the truth, that Lucy was gone forever.
So, why did I drag you into my heartache—make you love the wild girls, and root for their survival? I did it because misery loves company, but mostly because love is ALWAYS worth it. I got attached, and I don’t regret it. It was a beautiful honor to share the same courtyard with them, getting to listen to the rolling cackle of their comments, and admire the showgirl strut of those long yellow legs, and although it ended in a tragic blood bath, and I miss them terribly, I will love the next batch of chickens, puppies, children, neighbors, friends, family and of course myself. It’s what I do, for without love, life cannibalizes itself.