I peeked out of the back window to see my husband trying to get Spike out of the chicken coop. My heart sank, he needed some help. He was fumbling, Bella, Nelly and Grace were all up in his business. Hub does not have much to do with the chickens, except the hard stuff, gathering the dead or killing snakes. I had gone out moments earlier to see Spikes lifeless feathered body in the bottom of the coup. DARNIT…
The day was coming to an end, my daughter was not home so I went out to lock up the chickens for the night. We were down to four chickens, Spike: a feisty Rhode Island Red, Bella, Nelly, and Grace: a breed of chickens called, sex link. Spike was a hen that had been with us the longest out of the four. She lived up to her name and was at the top of pecking order. Pecking order is a real thing. I don’t like it. The past few weeks have not been good for Spike. She had a leg injury that would not heal. Over the past couple of days, she was holding back more and I knew it was the beginning of the end. When you have had chickens for a while, you just know.
The thing about chickens, is they know when one of theirs is dead in the coop or chicken area. They get all stirred up and squawky. When I went out to lock them up I knew something was up. Normally, they get themselves in the coop as soon as the sun starts going down. We didn’t know this when we first decided to start raising chickens. After a couple of days, chasing them around and putting them in the coop, we went out a little later one evening and they were all settled in. All by themselves. No one told us chickens put themselves to bed. When I went out and the three were not settled, I should have known.
James is a good sport. Right in the middle of jeopardy, I came in and asked him to take care of Spike. He stopped what he was doing and went out. Now, neither James nor I are “farm” people. Sure, we have chickens but that is the extent of it. So when he takes care of the dead, it’s a thing. He’s the man and he just does it, for me, for our girl. Husbands and Dad’s do things like take care of dead stuff and I am thankful. Our girl Dixie, the St. Bernard, he took care of her too when it was her time. We drove separate to the vet and after, he left with her. Took her to his brothers in the country and they buried her. My brother-in-law had a back hoe and had the earth ready for Dixie’s empty body. The hard heart stuff. I can’t even write a story about her just yet…not even.
So there he was, taking care of the dead stuff and needed some help. What’s a wife to do but put on her chicken boots and go out with the dead. I thought I was going to be helping with Spike, and I did in the way that I could. When I opened the gate, Bella, Grace and Nelly came running. It was like they were telling me all about the sadness of the day. They have been through it. Just a few weeks ago they lost their rooster, Roo-Stewart. Roo-Stewart was an extra special white silkie chicken. He strutted around and the girls loved him. For real. I don’t want to talk about it, how he broke my heart….(get it?). The three remaining girls were out-of-the-way so hub could do his man thing. He didn’t need me to help with the dead, he needed me to help with the living, with the broken chicken hearts. Yep, that’s a thing too. At least in my back yard.
The thing with chickens is that they will keep on going. They will get up in the morning, lay their eggs and just keep on going until their day comes for hub to take care of them. Raising chickens can be a risky thing for a heart. When I lost the rooster before Roo, (his name was Gene..), I made myself a promise…to never love another chicken. You can see how long that lasted. My new promise is, I will love them for as long as I have them. Period.
It’s like that in people life too, you know. Dead is hard. No one wants to be around it, no one ever. Except when we are called to and then it is sacred and never forgotten. Being able to say goodbye, and not being able to say goodbye…to lives well lived and lives not so well lived. May we have the courage to make our minds up that despite the pain that comes we will never regret loving and may we never forget that we are here for the living, for however long that is.