Saturday, April 9, 2011

As The Hen Turns, Episode 804,566

We have two chickens left from our first batch seven years ago, a New Hampshire Red named Prudence and a white and gold Auracana called Marisol. Marisol is the only one who has been on our farm that whole time, because Prudence was part of the fifteen reds I raised for my friend Maggie, who wanted new chickens that year but her daughter was getting married that spring, so having a roomful of dusty peeps in the house was out of the question. So I raised the reds the first few weeks and handed them off to Maggie after the wedding, and a few days later, my own flock of 10 or 12 assorted birds was attacked first by an opposum and a few days later by a roving dog. There were only 2 survivors, Marisol and one of the reds I had kept, whose leg the dog had broken. I knew I should wring her neck and be done with it, but I couldn’t bear to, and miraculously by the following week she was walking again. Maggie gave me back two red chicks to console me, so we had Prudence, Constance, Capability the miracle bird and Marisol. Over the years Capability died and Constance was carried off by the wildlife but Prudence and Marisol have endured. Marisol is very friendly and curious and likes to come into the kitchen and hang out with the human flock, so she became everyone’s favorite chicken. She even has fans in other states.

All the chickens except Marisol had started going out of the barn again now that it is kinda sorta grudgingly spring. Yesterday was pretty nice out, so I went and caught Marisol where she was hanging out in a nest box in the Hen Room, no doubt eating eggs, and I put her out with the other birds. She went straight back indoors. I went and got her and carried her halfway down the barnyard. She pecked around a bit on the ground; as soon as I started for the house, she sprinted for the barn door. I rolled my eyes and decided to leave her to it. As I went through the barnyard gate, she disappeared around the corner of the barn.

But at bedtime when I was locking up, glancing over the roosting hens as always, there was no Marisol. I looked again, harder. No hen. Marisol was gone. Somehow in the three feet between the corner of the barn and the barn door, something had swooped down and nabbed her, and I didn’t even hear it happening. This is what you get, I told myself, for meddling with Nature. You don’t know how things are, you don’t know what’s going on, you think you understand everything and know best but you don’t, and now, because of your arrogance, everyone’s favorite chicken, the venerable Marisol, is dead. In spite of this cheerful assessment, that little part inside me that refuses to ever see reason was crossing its fingers that she might come back, because there was no corpse and no explosion of feathers on the ground.

This morning when I went into the Hen Room, Marisol emerged laboriously from inside the wall where she had hidden all night. Why was she in the wall? I have no idea. She is not broody. She went out into the barnyard today with the rest of the chickens, as though winter had never happened and this is just what we do every day all year, and we never think of a quick run back to the barn to hide in the darkness and eat eggs. Maybe she has chicken senility. In any event, I am glad that her blood is not on my hands.

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