Years ago, when my ex and I were taking the beginning steps to rearing chickens, a dear friend told me, “Remember, Marieke, sometimes chickens die.”
He knew I was a sensitive soul, and he wanted to prepare me for livestock ownership.
In preparation for becoming a chicken owner, we purchased all of the necessary materials, fencing, feeders, feed. We convinced our landlord to allow us to repurpose his old trailer into a chicken coop. we read books about chickens. One author recommended against naming your chickens if they were intended to become dinner down the line.
Our friend who has warned us of the possible fate of our soon to be beloved birds offered to place eggs beneath a particularly broody bird of his own in the hopes of being able to provide us with some baby chicks of our own.
His advice was accurate from the start. From more than a dozen eggs, only 3 baby chicks were hatched.
We brought them home in a little, cardboard box. From the moment I held our baby chicks in my hand, I knew they would never be meat birds. They were named within a few minutes—Merry, Samwise, and Pippin—after our favorite Tolkien Hobbits.
And so life with chickens began.
Merry and Samwise soon grew into roosters, and Pippin became my most cherished chicken companion.
I have experienced my friend’s wise words time and again in the chicken realm and beyond. Frigid winters, wild predators, dogs, and death with no explanation at all have befallen my beloved brood of chickens.
Even now, in my life after chickens, yet my friend’s advice remains relevant.
A few mornings ago, I heard a familiar sound at dawn.
Unmistakable. It was a rooster crowing. At once, I was brought back to my life in the upper Skagit in Washington, trusty Samwise helping me to greet the day.
“Did your neighbors get chickens?” I asked my partner.
“Not that I know of.”
“But that was a rooster? Did you hear it, too?”
In the brush across from his home at the end of a road in a rocky area of Prescott called the Granite Dells, there were three chickens.
Three beautiful chickens. A Rooster and two hens, all rufous orange in color with luminescent, green tail feathers.
I loved them instantly but knew I could not keep them.
We tried unsuccessfully to catch them. I had forgotten that it was far easier to wrangle a chicken in the evening when they were asleep.
We took pictures. I posted a listing on Craigslist and received a response from a woman in Prescott Valley who was interested in adopting them. She came out a couple of days later but was unable to catch them.
Day turned to night several times.
First, there were three.
Then, there were two.
Then, there was one.
Yesterday morning, I awoke and listened for the familiar sound, but there was only silence.
“Did you hear the rooster this morning?”
Oh well. I guess that sometimes, chickens die.