Chickens and Insanity
by Julie Carpenter
So yesterday morning, I buried a small chicken. The night before, it was squeezed to death by a six foot rat snake, who caught it just as it was going into the chicken coop to roost for the night. It was a little black hen with a gold neck that was almost pullet sized. I had actually been worried about not putting the babies back in the chicken yard. I'd even thought clipping their wings to keep them safe. (A couple of red-tailed hawks have made a nest overlooking the chicken yard. I can imagine the avian realtor now, "And look, so close to dining!")
Ha! I suppose the joke was on me because the monster that murdered her was not the fox in woods or the hawk in the trees, it was a monster that hid in her little house. Try telling a chicken that the monsters under the bed aren't real!
Anyway, it was a sad moment in the ongoing soap opera of the Carpenter Chickens. And the funny part, the part that makes me wonder about my sanity, is that it was so sad. After all, chickens are at the bottom end of the food chain. You would have to be a worm or a bug to get any lower. I have lost a number of chickens. There were Angelo's first two wives, Dottie and Millie. Millie went first...food for a hawk. Dottie was next done in by a racoon (who didn't even bother to eat her - at which I took a deep offense). There was Lady Gwen's sister who didn't even last long enough to get a name. And last year, there was a chick who just didn't make it after hatching. Then poor Sylvia, carried off by a fox in broad daylight and then the two hens Maria and Sophia - whom Essie called "the lost tribe of chickens" for their wandering ways, and Roderick, Angelo's son, all of whom appear to have been eaten by our red-tailed hawks.
So this spring, when Ligeia hatched off five babies, I decided not to name them. I might as well name the worms I thought. I will see which ones live and which ones don't and name them later, I decided. After all, why should I get attached to an animal that I might eat under different circumstances. It doesn't really make sense. I was very stern with myself...there are plenty of bad things that happen in this world; there are people without enough to eat; people who live in war zones; people who lose the people they love every day. No more of this, I said to myself. "Self," I said very sternly, "This is ridiculous. What would a real farmer think. These are chickens and they do not require mourning."
But yesterday, when I went out to bury her, I kind of remembered her wandering around under the cedar tree with the light on her gold neck feathers. And I kind of thought about how she would turn her head sideways to see if I was going to give her any cat food. And how she was the calmest of the chicks and the fluffiest when she was first hatched and how I accidentally dropped her when I tried to put her into the special small cage I had for Ligeia and her brood when they were little. And even though she was a chicken and I felt that somehow it might be an affront to people who had "real" problems and "real" sadness, big people problems to be upset or sorrowful or angry about, I was sad anyway. And to be totally honest, and under no circumstances should you repeat this to a farmer, I might have even cried a little.
So I buried her under my biggest butterfly bush and I named her Buttercup. And if you ever come here, I can probably show you the place where I have put her under two of the most ornamental logs I could find.
I'm probably just crazy enough to do this again with more chicks next year. If anything happens to them? I'll still be sad. But they will already have names.