"Absent friends, here's to them,
And happy days, we thought that they would never end,
But they always end.
Raise your glasses then to absent friends."
--from the song Absent Friends by The Divine Comedy: song written by Neil Hannon
We all love our chickens. And it always seems to be the more you love them, the higher chance it is that you're going to lose them. It's hard to lose your favorite chicken, because the chances are that they're also one of your best friends; they always listen, and never tell you that your crazy ideas or feelings are bad or wrong. Of course, they never give you advice when you need it either, but if we could get our advice from our pets there would be no point in having any other human interaction. And it's hard to let your best friends go. This is a commemoration of our absent and feathered friends that still warm--or haunt--our minds.
I had a Serama hen named Silver, who liked to go broody on no eggs, so I decided to put another of my hen's eggs under her for her to brood. Two chicks hatched, but by the time we discovered them one had already died and the other was doing poorly. We buried the dead one and brought the other inside our house to try and save him. I knew that it wasn't going to make it, but it still moved me. It reminded me of the story of a young hockey player who died in a motorcycle accident in New Brunswick, Canada in 2008. The player's name was Luc; the link of dying young made me name the dying chick Luc as well. I remember watching T.V. with my parents while holding little Luc, and he died in my hands.
As a lover of writing fiction stories, I often name characters who remind me of my feathered friends after them; I named the stillborn child of one of my characters Luca, after the chick and hockey player--all who died much too young.
The story of losing Spotty was one of the most traumatizing events of my life that still to this day makes me tear. Spotty was the first hen that was truly mine; the others I shared with my brother. Her rooster was her brother Chestnut, though I definitely loved Spotty more. I loved her; she was the hen that I showed at the very first Serama Tabletop show in Texas and won Grand Champion Hen with, and she was my very own pet. We built her her own coop--which I must admit wasn't as predator-proof as it is now. We went on our yearly vacation to Port Aransas for a week in the spring she turned a year old, and left the coop doors open, but they are always enclosed by a fenced in run. Our neighbors were going to come over and check on them--and when a skunk got into the coop, they called my dad the day before we left to come home. The entire three-hour drive back was spent in tears. I was devastated. Spotty had gone broody on eggs before we left, and surprisingly the skunk left some unbroken. Spotty had won a small incubator as a prize at the tabletop show earlier that year, so when we got home we decided to be a bit more positive and put the remaining eggs in, knowing that probably none of them would hatch. A week later--on a Thursday I somehow remember--I was sleeping in our old 1984 pop-up camper and my dad came out to wake me and said that some of the eggs were trying to hatch. I was surprised and got up, and at around 5:00 in the evening that day, a little brown chick hatched. Her name was Mira--the beginning of miracle. I remember that evening talking to my aunt who lives in Canada on the phone just crying of joy, and sadness of losing Mira's mother. That night, little Mira would not sleep. She was scared I think, because she would cry out loudly, and when I went out and held her, she quieted. After both of us finally getting some sleep, we woke up the next morning in time to see her brother hatch, Cal--the end of miracle. I was being a little hopeful at first and called him Callie, hoping that he was a girl too. Mira was happy to have a brother and slept much easier that night.
A thing to know about the devious little skunk that started this strange variety of emotions, it that it wasn't a normal, striped skunk. It's called a Spotted Skunk, which is smaller and can climb, and of course, has spots. It was a mother, and had her babies in our tool shed, only a few dozen yards away from our coops. That frustrated me; she killed my favorite chicken, and then had her babies in our shed; she was the one who started a lot of my persistent paranoia--I still check that back corner of the shed every time in case she came back. I so badly wanted to kill her, but the darn pacifist in me overrode that and left me to grieve, instead of act upon revenge.
I remember months later sleeping in our camper crying quietly to myself at night, wanting to have Spotty back. I missed her; at that time we had four chickens; her siblings Tweedy and Opelousas, and the two chicks Mira and Cal. To this day I remember her with honor and silent grief. How could something so small--and frankly cute--devastate a ten-year-old girl's life so much? I had no one to talk to; I had no friends. I remember talking to a friend I had on the online game Horse Isle 2 about it because I just needed to tell someone. At that time I felt guilty about saying something and it kind of becoming true; I remember giving scratch to my chickens and saying "This is the last time that I'll be giving you scratch." I should have added "for a while", because it was. It happened another time in that same time frame about a family friend, too.
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