This has been a rough chicken year for many folks living in the upper Skagit. We have friends who lost all of their chickens. We started out the season with 22 chickens, lost many in the spring to coyotes feeding their young, and seemed to lose a couple here and a few more there until our flock had been reduced to 13.
At first, it was an emotional experience as one after another of our most beloved chickens fell prey to Coyote, Raven, or Red-tailed Hawk or simply perished from unknown causes. It became almost humorous when in conversation with my husband, I would ask how things were going and if he hesitated, I knew we had lost yet another. They weren’t all lost through predation. A few seemed to simply fade away from one day to the next.
Way back when, at the outset of our life with chickens, a dear friend in the Skagit shared some well-founded wisdom with us. He took us aside one day and confided, “now remember, sometimes chickens die”.
Recently, during one of my many escapades deciphering the many logistics of moving my life from Washington to Alaska, I engaged in quite an amusing conversation with an employee at Alaska Marine Highway. A significant portion of our time on the telephone surrounded the details of bringing chickens on the ferry. Were chickens considered livestock or pets? If pets, they would need a health certificate and possibly even rabies vaccinations. I mentioned that there was no way I was bringing chickens to the vet at $40 per animal. The woman seemed perplexed at this notion and asked, “Well, what do you do if one of your chickens gets sick?” I responded, “Well, they die. Sometimes chickens die.” Laughter ensued over the telephone, as well as from the seasonal working in the room next to me at Glacier Bay park headquarters. A friend in Gustavus did his best to console me after Samwise the rooster passed away by telling me that perhaps Samwise was the wisest of the chickens, felt strongly (as only a chicken can) of his place in the Skagit, and took his own life at the thought of moving to Alaska.
While I have been somewhat desensitized to the loss of Rufia, Sammy, Idriel, Ginger, Roona, Jen, Tawny, JuJu, and Samwise, I felt a surge of hope and heart swell when I looked into the run this morning and noticed two hopelessly tiny figures taking tenuous steps beside Rosie, our fiercely independent, veteran Golden-laced Wyandotte. When least expected, life insists itself into the world and grabs hold.