She sat shivering on her roosting bar in the morning. The days of being a small chick in a warm bedroom with the morning light filtering in through gauzy curtains behind her, Rosie is now a grown bird laying eggs and spending most of her time outdoors in her run come rain, shine or frost. Rosie is one of seven chickens in our coop, raised from a silver dollar sized baby to a grown chicken. Her chicken family are all our beloved pets.
But now, change has come to the coop. Rosie does not run to me at the end of the day or sit dreamily in my lap as I pet her soft feathers as often as she used to but I’m not sure exactly why. She and I are acting as if something has changed, and it has. The chickens’ benefactor, little four year old Kyra, has moved away, and we all miss her. Our sadness is creating a gap between us which we are struggling to cross. I attend to Rosie’s needs and the needs of her sweet flock mates but not with the same enthusiasm because my little task master is not there to school me on the best way to hold each bird, to remind me of their favorite songs or which of them like a peck on the beak. I know these things about our chickens but it doesn’t feel the same without her reminding me.
I’m certain her chickens feel the same way. They do not have her to bounce excitedly and clap for every egg that’s laid or to ask them how they feel in the evening as she sits with them before bed. I think their loss is profound and so is mine. I think the way I miss her is magnified when I am with her precious flock and it makes it harder for me to do what she did, it reminds me so much of her. Then the guilt sets in that I am not holding down the promise. I want to look away. I do look away.
Yet, somehow this morning I ambled my way out to them. I heard Kyra’s voice in my heart saying: “Gam it’s eight zero zero, time to put the chickens outside in their run.” (They still sleep in the garage at night where it’s safe). As I held each one the familiar warmth returned. I touched their small feet which is my favorite part of a chicken because they are warm and padded and expressive. If a chicken loves you she will wrap her toes around your fingers and burrow her head in
your chest. She will speak to you in small, sweet bursts of birdsong. Being loved by an individual so deeply misunderstood is like having a ticket to a new world. That bond is quite literally magical.
Involuntarily a song slipped from my throat: “Good morning beautiful..how was your night? Mine was wonderful with you by my si-i-ide…” Rosie sang along and cuddled into my chest. I was home again.
If Kyra never lives with me again I will forever treasure the years she pulled me out of bed in the morning with the lilt of her voice and the touch of her hands. I will never stop dreaming of our “goddess baths” by candlelight and the vision of her and I sitting on warm summer days in the backyard surrounded by chickens. It’s the dream I didn’t know I had until it happened. Now that has changed as all things do and must.
Kyra lives three hours away and attends a pre-school with a chicken coop. Her mother, my dearest friend and daughter, is also there for her education and adventure. The chickens and I are still here, here with the corn they planted, here with the little coop in the corner just a few feet shy of the cherry tomatoes Kyra harvested each morning, here with the love she taught us.
More Chicken Dreams: The Egg and I
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Photo: Julie Akins