I am grateful for many things, as I wrote in this post 6 months ago. But what I am most thankful for was somewhat of a surprise for some people. It was a chicken.
My chicken. Lucia or Lucy as she is known affectionately.
It’s Lucy of the flashing red feathers and bright golden eyes who brings a smile to my face this holiday season. She has brought great joy to our lives for almost 4 years. She is a New Hampshire Red chicken. And she is or was the last chicken standing.
Lucia died in the wee hours of Sunday morning, July 8th, 2012, age and heat catching up with her. But she is still here, in my heart.
She and her sisters arrived in May of 2008, just one day old. The packing box they where shipped in weighed more than the 4 of them, combined. Tiny, soft, fluffy and so vulnerable, they quickly grew into big, beautiful birds, each with her own personality.
Lucia was the smallest, the quietest and always the last one to get to the food. Even as a chick, her nature was gentle. Today, she sweeps out of her Eglu Go – Green – Chicken House each morning to feast on a mixture of barley, wild rice and brown rice with a nice topping of shredded cheddar cheese.
Then she patrols her pen, always on the lookout for some wayward bug or hapless spider who entered her house while she was sleeping.
Born with a set number of eggs to lay in her life time, Lucy delivered the last of her 230 or so about 6 months ago. She is now fully retired. And she is alone. Her sisters, Heathcliff, Gertrude and Squeaky Ethel left her behind.
Squeaky Ethel, the most intense of all of them and the one who tried to escape every time the door opened, died first, simply laying down one afternoon and not getting up. Tall, elegant Heathcliff was the next to go. She laid the biggest eggs, popped out of the Eglu like she was being shot out of a cannon and generally enjoyed just being a chicken. She, too, just went to sleep one night.
Gertrude had a stroke. That’s the only way I can describe it. I found her lying in front of the Eglu one spring afternoon. Thinking she was dead, I bent down and picked her up gently and she looked at me. Her body was rigid; she couldn’t move but she was warm and she was alive.
I took her to the patio, sat on the glider and held her in my lap under the afternoon sun, stroking her and telling her how beautiful she was. An hour later, she died in my arms.
All three lie in small graves in my garden, giving back to my soil and to me. Lucy will lie there one day but I hope not too soon.
Yes, I know Lucy’s days are numbered. And I want to make them the best that I can. So I put fresh straw in the Eglu, feed her blueberries and yogurt for an afternoon snack and give her all the love this small, beautiful red-headed chicken deserves until she draws her last breath.
She will be buried with great dignity in the garden she loved to scratch in and I will know my girls are out there gardening with me.