See You Around, Old Gal
The way I greet most mornings, coffee cup in hand, is with a brisk walk out to the chicken coop. A crisp air and a gentle wind gets my blood flowing as I make my way toward the hen house.
Today, as I walked out there, I gave my usual call: Chic chic chic… chickens! It is really a ridiculous call, but I give it because I love the Pavlovian way the hens react. They start stirring and clucking because they know I’m coming with veggie scraps. Those big mama hens love their left over bread slices and their strawberry tops.
Once I threw the bits of bread and zucchini into their yard, I looked around closely.
“All seems well here,” I note to myself.
Then, I count: one, two, three, four…. nine. No, there’s eight. Oh no! There should be nine. Now, a short roll call in the morning usually means that all is not well in the hen house. It means that either one has flown the coop or kicked the bucket.
As I scanned along the feeding area, I saw her.
Now, Buffy has been the sweetest hen and a mighty layer, but she had been recently sick. She was laying on her side, eyes closed. I picked her up gently.
“Now look at you, Buffy,” I said as I gathered her into my arms.
Her feathers were matted and she had food crumbs on her back.
“This is no way for you to go out of this world!” I said quietly.
Then, I spoke to her in a soothing voice and brought her inside to the warmth of my laundry room, the whir of washing machine filling the room.
I always figure I owe a little dignity to an animal that has served my family well for many years. I wouldn’t want her out there getting trampled and pricked. Pecking order is hell in chicken land!
Inside I made her a cup of antibiotic tea, and sat her down in a paper lined sink, knowing she wouldn’t make it past noon.
She was a good lady, a good chicken lady that is. I hope the tea, the chat and the snug paper nest gave her a sense of our appreciation for her good works.
See you around, old gal.