A sad story
This week we buried the ravaged body of one of our chickens.
When we first brought our chickens home, we had determined that we would give them a life of free ranging freedom. For 2-3 months they have been free ranging almost every day. We’ve been keeping a very regular eye on them; usually just to check that they were safe and at other times to observe the dynamics of our little extended family.
The single most amazing thing we’ve learned about our chickens is that they have such individual personalities!
We learned that Omlet was always the first to lay, then Yolko Ono, then Drumstick. Three eggs every single day, even during our dark winter.
We noticed that Horris was possessive of Drumstick and that Drumstick was arrogant and comfortable in her favoured position. We saw that Yolko Ono’s broken beak meant that she had to work harder to eat as much as the others. We learned that Omlet was an adventurous rebel, full of hope for what lay just beyond the fence. We observed that Yolko Ono and Omlet were inseparable: Omlet would invariably find an escape route from the area around the house, then call Yolko Ono to follow her. Yolko Ono always followed her.
In recent weeks, we’d watched Omlet become more and more adventurous, until one day this week she encouraged the family to reach yet further away from the house and deeper into the forest.
As we always do, we ventured outside several times that day in search of them.
But after lunch we heard a strange noise, and when Stu went out to investigate he returned with the news that ‘one of the black chickens is dead’ and ‘I disturbed a black and white animal’ and ‘Horris and Drumstick are really stressed’.
At first I wouldn’t believe him…but his face, which was dark and angry, told me that he was speaking the truth.
I found Omlet lying in the grass, one wing ripped off, her eyes closed and her body cold. I patted her gently on her neck and apologized for allowing her to venture into danger.
Then I carried her home.
Stu dug a hole in my flower garden and we placed our little casualty to rest.
We coaxed Horris and Drumstick out from their refuge under the car and back to the safety of their coop, then went off in search of Yolko Ono.
After multiple search attempts in the forest, we finally decided that Yolko Ono also must have been killed or taken.
But just before dark, she returned home. Several of her large tail feathers were missing and she was crying a strange and lonely lament. She let me pick her up.
We have learned the hard way. Chickens are innocent. Free ranging can be dangerous for them.
But as I write this my mind returns to the forest, where a large patch of disturbed ground can be found. This patch contains more than simply the enthusiastic scratchings of a family of chickens. It contains the spirit of Omlet: always hopeful, prepared to push the boundaries, wild and free.