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July 12, 2015: Eulogy for a Chicken

It seems strange, the day after the death of a sibling, to be writing about the death of a chicken. Some would say that a chicken’s death is inconsequential. This is because for most, a chicken is a food source. And these individuals would add that my acknowledging that I feel a sense of loss is indirectly conceding to the fact that I’m slightly deranged. I would, if this was brought to my attention, argue otherwise.

I don’t want to make comparisons to my now dead brother. But I do need to make two of them. My now dead chicken, in one respect lead a better life

than did my brother in that she had chicken family. My brother had people tending to him and roommates, but family was always noticeably absent. Also, the chicken and my retarded brother were on a similar wavelength. They were able to communicate their very simple needs, wants, and wishes.

I feel bad about both deaths. I’m not going to quantify and say that I feel worse about one than the other because sorrow is sorrow. Fiction writer John Irving once wrote about a dog named Sorrow’s demise, noting that after he went down in an airplane, that “Sorrow Floats.” This was after the stuffed dog bobbed to the ocean’s surface.

The chicken. This is what this dispatch is about. I named her Chickaroo – she once indicated to me that she instead wanted to be called Red Hen. She was given to Pete and me by our friend Anne Corinne, who has many, many chickens. Red Hen’s job in the home coop was to lay eggs. Her job here was to be Freebird’s companion. Freebird is a large black jersey giant who acquired this name because this is what she was best at doing. She had a predilection for, and enjoyed being a free range chicken. She was given to us because she pooped everywhere, including in the very large Sun Circle garden.

As it turned out, Freebird was Red Hen’s companion. She was from the day she arrived here, two years ago, a very personable bird. She stuck close to me after I let her out of the coop. And when I turned the compost in the upper quadrant, she hopped on the heap. She never ventured far. And neither did Freebird, who stayed close to her.

Red Hen ruled the roost, but in a very kind fashion. For instance, she let it be known to Sophie (the last acquisition) that she was first in the pecking order, and Freebird was second. And in short order, Sophie learned her place.

Red Hen was the bird that I took in hand when visitors arrived. She let others pet her, and she remained relaxed the entire time. She never pooped on me. She was not a prodigious producer egg wise. In fact, after a year there were no more eggs. Some would have, after making note of this, tossed her into the stew pot. I instead gave her pet status. Sophie and Freebird ceased to lay at about the same time, so they too were elevated to pet status.

Red Hen died a slow and painful death. One day I found her in the lower pen, all puffed up. I placed her in the upper pen, with her mates. Over the next few days she both puffed out more and flattened out.

I knew she was going to die. I have this phobia – I can’t handle dealing with dead fish or birds. So I began checking in on her with a great deal of trepidation. Sure enough, I one day reached in and felt that she was cold, meaning dead. I went inside, got a white plastic bag, and with my eyes closed, scooped her into it. Pete buried her up behind the black hole. We normally bury chickens up on the hill, but it was getting late, and it was easier to bury her close by.

Loss is loss no matter if it’s a brother one seldom interacts with or a chicken one interacts with on a daily basis. Time to move on; time to put my energies into caring for and about those humans and fowl who have not yet ventured into the great beyond.

Next: 180. 7/13/15: Moving Forward at the Speed of Light

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