The chickens lounging under the apple tree.
Bracken scooping up oyster shell for the girls. (Yes we could just pour some out of the bag, but he thinks it’s a lot more fun to take a little scoop at a time. He’s in no hurry.)
There are some things that are easy to write about in this space. Knitting projects. Books. Gratitude. Recipes. Gardening projects. Things that I love. Then there are the other parts. The hard parts. They are not quite as easy to write about. Sometimes I mean to, but don’t really get the time and space to delve in so it gets put off. I have posts writing themselves in the back of my mind and they make their way here when they can.
This last week Bracken and I went out at twilight to close the door to the chicken coop and tuck the girls in for the night. Bracken was proudly carrying the flashlight. We went inside the coop and I counted our chickens. I make a point to do that every night that I close up the coop and make sure that everybody is accounted for. I counted once. I counted twice. Sure enough, we were missing a chicken. So Bracken and I walked out into the yard to see if we could find the missing girl. We were walking and I noticed that our makeshift gate (a piece of fencing) had fallen over. I went to pick it up and then I saw it. A chicken. Underneath the fencing that had fallen over. Not moving. I knew right away that she was dead. And the worst part? It was Bear, our family’s very favorite chicken. At that moment I wished that Bracken wasn’t standing next to me, holding his flashlight. I wished that he was inside, warm and cozy by the fire and happily oblivious to what was going on outside. Bracken said “uh oh”, but didn’t seem to understand fully what was going on. I picked up the fencing and moved it aside. I looked down at Bear one last time and then said “let’s go get your dad.” Then Bracken started crying, saying “Bear! Bear! Bear!” (which sounds like “bay” when he says it.) We went inside and got Jeff and then came back outside and Jeff picked up her limp body. It was too dark to bury her anywhere. We walked with Jeff over to the burn barrel. We decided we would cremate her the next day. Before Jeff placed her in the barrel, I said my goodbye to her. Then Jeff did. And Bracken said “Bye Bye Bear.” We went inside and Bracken cried on and off, not sure what to make of it. I felt sad and I also felt frustrated because I felt guilty and responsible. If an animal would have gotten her, that would have been nature. But I was kicking myself about that fence. Kicking myself that she had died because of our carelessness. We had wanted to make a proper gate there for a long time, but hadn’t had the time to invest in the project yet. When it had been windy during the storms, we kept the chickens in their other yard and didn’t let them in the garden where that gate was because the wind knocked it over. But that day had not been windy. The piece of fencing had been leaning in the other direction. How could it have fallen over the opposite way it was leaning? We didn’t quite figure it all out, but it looked like she died immediately. It brought me a little peace to think she hadn’t suffered. (The gate has been secured now, by the way.) And I kept thinking “Why Bear?! Why did it have to be our favorite chicken?” Whenever anyone asked Bracken about our chickens, he always told them about his favorite chicken named Bear and his other favorite chicken named Honey. But Bear was the very favorite. We all loved her. She was silly and had so much personality and character. She was so friendly. But that doesn’t quite fully explain it. It was just her spirit. She had a delightful spirit that touched us all. When the chicks ran around and didn’t want us to hold them, Bear always let us hold her. When she got big and I worried she wouldn’t be like that anymore, she would stop and let us pet her. She even flew up and perched on my shoulder a few times! I had never met a chicken like her before. In the past, when we had raised chickens, I had never gotten very attached to them. I named them, I enjoyed them, but I didn’t feel very connected to them. We lost many chickens and it was just a part of raising them. But this time was different. I had never felt so connected to a chicken before, as I did with Bear. I was sadder than I had expected. The next few days I hardly wanted to go out to see the chickens because when I was around them, it made me miss her terribly. And Bracken as well. But we went out anyway. We brought them treats and filled their feeder. Bracken scooped up some oyster shell and grit. We gathered eggs. We walked with them around the yard. Bracken pointed over to the apple tree where we liked to sit with Bear and said “Bear! Yay!”, pretending that he could see her over there. He kept acting like he was expecting her to appear suddenly and have everything be all better. It made my heart ache and I nearly burst into tears. I wished it could be that simple and easy. I didn’t want to tell Bracken he wasn’t going to see her anymore.
And then something funny happened. My least favorite chicken, Sassy, who has always seemed to have such an attitude and wouldn’t come anywhere near us (and whom I probably would have chosen to go in Bear’s place, as bad as that sounds) came over to us, squatted down right in front of us, and waited for us to pet her. So Bracken and I pet her for the longest time and she just stayed there, being with us. I was stunned and absolutely amazed, it was so unlike her behavior towards us before, where she always stayed about ten feet away from us. Today when we went out she did it again. And for some reason, having our most unfriendly chicken come over and be friendly with us helped heal my hurting heart a little. I don’t quite know how to explain why, but it did. I know losing chickens is a part of raising them. I thought I was okay with that and I had been in the past. I guess it took me by surprise to be so upset by it this time around. Perhaps part of it was that my heart ached for Bracken’s tender heart and that made it even harder. As much as it pained me to see Bracken sad, I knew he was experiencing and processing something important. Something that’s a part of life. Even if he doesn’t really understand it yet. In honor of sweet Bear, here are some posts she’s been in, in random order: here, here, and here. And here, here, and here, (There’s probably more, she’s made it to the blog quite a few times.)
Goodbye Bear. We’ll miss you. Thank you for all the joy and laughter you brought to us!