Thursday, March 15, 2012

For Hadley (AKA How I Came to Have Chickens Named Angel, Fluffy & Princess)

Left to right: Princess, Fluffy and Angel, in the house where
they'll stay at night until they're old enough to stay outside.
Just the other day I was thinking how nice it would be to have chickens again.  I've always had chickens.  I love to sit and watch them walk around, bobbing their heads, pecking the ground, then taking off to chase down a grasshopper.  It's comforting to be in the garden, on my knees weeding, and have company walk up, coo that interested chicken noise, and look at me as if to say, "Whatcha' doin'?"  I miss them.

The very next day at work, Anne asked George if I wanted chickens.  It seems some people were needing to find a home for three little hens since they were moving and couldn't take them with them.  Quite serendipitous.

The next day after that, Anne called over the radio that they were here.  I rushed up to meet my new pets and got to meet Hadley as well.  She was the girl who had raised these little cuties from tiny babies, and one look at her told me this was not easy for her.  She couldn't look at me, just down at the chicks, her eyes ringed with eyelashes wet from crying.  I wanted to tell her how glad I was to have them, what a good home they would have on my farm, living in my garden, locked up safe at night and free ranging during the day while being protected by my dogs who know chickens are not snacks but just funny looking pack members.  Chicken heaven.

But even as I was trying to say these things to comfort her, I knew it wouldn't help.  Hadley didn't want to hear how I would take care of her babies.  She wanted to do it.  She wanted to be the one to watch them grow up, to let them run around during the day and lock them up safe at night.  She'd had plans and dreams for these girls, and now none of that would be happening.  Everything she'd been thinking and hoping since she got them would change.

Clockwise from the bottom: Princess, Fluffy and Angel,
outside on a warm day.
Not everything, I thought.  I asked her their names.  As she petted each one in turn she told me, and I carefully wrote them down.

As Hadley and her mother were about to leave, she quietly told her mother, "Tell her about the eating thing."  Her mother smiled at me and said, "We wanted to make sure that whoever got them wouldn't eat them."  I looked at Hadley even though she couldn't look at me and quickly told her, "Oh, no, honey.  I won't eat them.  I want eggs."  I wish I would have had the presence of mind to say, "And company in the garden."  I wish I could have said something to make her feel better, to let her know that these chickens are really going to be my company, my pets.

So, Hadley, I hope you're reading this.  I want you to know that your babies aren't just going to be egg factories.  I saw clearly when I met you that they were more than that to you.  And when I got them home, I saw that even more clearly still.  You obviously spent a lot of time with them, holding them, taming them.  They aren't afraid of me.  They seem to like being picked up for a cuddle, or at least grudgingly accept it (since I'm me and not you).  And when I have the grate on the top of their bin in the evening, they don't like that and let me know, so I take it off and they fly up on the couch arm next to George.  They're very sociable, wanting to be next to us.  I like that.

Thank you for spending so much time taking such good care of them.  And thank you for giving them to me.  I promise I'll take good care of them, just like you did.

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