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I don’t know what you can really say about a chicken

Posted by joeabbott on July 7, 2011

We have three chickens and while we didn’t name them, we referred to them by the primary characteristics: one is “the buff” (she is a buff orpington), one is “poopy butt” (for a long while she had clumps of chicken poo on her tail feathers), and one was “the alpha” (she was the dominant hen in our small flock).

And, yes, sadly: she was.

Over the last week or two she’s been off: a bit more listless, not being “the first” to try a treat or be fed, and in the last day or two she’s just taken up a spot in the yard and sat there all day. All of this was unusual as she had always been quite active, been at the top of the pecking order, and our “free range” chickens would put on miles a day. And, just the other day, I saw her sitting in our path in the yard, not moving. It was a bit touching that our other black australorp (poopy butt) would forage but always return to stand over her. Just standing. While I’d like to believe there was a silent passing-of-the-torch and poopy butt was now taking on the role of protector, she was just as likely wondering if there weren’t some nice treat to be had for sitting still in one place. That place.

imageThis morning I went out and saw the alpha sitting in the coop on the dry sand floor. Just sitting. She looked at me, blinked a few times, but didn’t move. I left her be and worked upstairs during the day.

In the course of the day I listened to a 1995 Greg Brown album called The Live One and in it, he made reference to a poem by Pablo Neruda called Weariness. I looked it up and found Cierto Cansancio … which is, A Certain Weariness. The stanza containing the line Greg referred to goes like this:

Estoy cansada de las gallinas:
nunca supimos lo que piensan,
y nos miran con ojos secos
sin concedernos importancia.

Which roughly translates to:

I am weary of chickens:
no one knows what they’re thinking,
and they look at us with dry eyes
without considering us important.

About the line “… without considering us important”, Greg quipped, “which is true, they do, you know, we are; but it’s hard to take it from a damned chicken, you know.”

Which got me thinking about our chickens so I went out to check up. Mostly because the buff had been in the shelter long enough I knew an egg was awaiting (it was), but also to look in on the alpha. And she was gone. Not missing, but gone just the same.

Cool and motionless to the touch; we are down to a flock of two.

I can tell I’m a bit sad. We’d always said “they’re just chickens” and don’t consider them pets; I knew that when the time came, there’d be no burial. But we’re also humane and wouldn’t think of harming or scaring animals in our stead; they provide us food and we’re respectful of their needs. Respectful of them. But, she was just a chicken.

Just a chicken.


One Response to “I don’t know what you can really say about a chicken”

  1. Momma said

    I feel touched deeply – as you say, only a chicken. But a Life that gave you nourishment and pleasure, and was truly a Gift. So I pause tonight and say Thank You, alpha, for all you gave to Joe and Suzy. Maybe at the end (or the Transition, as I think of it) not only will our loved ones (humans) be there to welcome us to the Next Life, but all the animals we’ve really loved and who have been pleased to have Us as their “masters”.

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