Our house is at the corner of two moderately busy country roads, which our chickens blithely cross on a daily basis. Lately, Tallulah and Alexia have been hanging out under our neighbour’s bird feeders, directly in front of her front door. She loves it. Our neighbour, that is.
The fencing we erected for the horse(s) does not contain the girls the way we had hoped it would. I have chicken crossing signs up. Sometimes, people stop and wait for the girls to cross, almost always with good humour, and a wave when I mouthe “thank you”. Once, the girls held up an ambulance. True story.
I was leaving the house today, just before dinner, and had to stop for 2.0, all three surviving members, directly in my path on the road. I had to honk the horn to get them to get off the dang road already. The path cleared, I drove on to the rise, the rise which makes drivers blind to what’s beyond, the rise which has caused three car accidents in five years, to find the road covered in pale feathers. And Marilyn.
She was quite dead, and that is probably a mercy. She was profoundly injured and must have died instantly. It had just happened; she was still warm and bleeding. I took her back to the house, and, per my previous decision, asked The Man to cremate her in the outdoor furnace, yet, operational, heating the house for another couple of weeks.
Sigh. I feel cursed. Or criminally incompetent. I can’t decide.
I am not crying, although I may later. Marilyn was not, to put it mildly, one of my favourites. She was flighty and needy and a lousy layer. She was the prettiest of the 2.1 chicks, but she grew up on the very bottom of the pecking order, and even her sister, Mae, found her neediness oppressive.
And, tonight, Mae is alone on the roost; Marilyn won’t be pestering her again. (Okay, now I’m crying.) I don’t believe I am anthropomorphising when I say that Mae is sad.
I know for a certainty there are many, many occasions where free girls are safer than contained girls. When girls are free, you lose one, not whole flocks, because they can run for cover. Contained girls, obviously, do not face the hazards of traffic. I’m not feeling the same sense of desperate, heart-breaking accountability as I did with the weasel; this death didn’t happen inside their home. This death was, as The Man puts it, “the cost of doing business”. (I disagreed with him, strenuously, when he applied that consolation to the weasel deaths.)
And, now, there are seven. Seven.
It feels as though we’re really starting again this year. I am excited about hatching 3.0 and Gwynderella and the poults which are likely in their own incubator in Indiana right now. But this rampage of death, coming, as it has, in relentless drips, is breaking my spirit. I keep thinking I’m recovering, and then…
So, here’s to Marilyn. She was the cutest chick I ever saw, and she laid a beautiful, blue egg, although it took her thirty-eight weeks to get around to it. She was a timid girl because, I think, her muffs were so huge her vision was impaired. She’s not afraid any more.