new spring chicks
i went to the feed n seed to look at the new bantams. and i reflected with sorrow on the towers of birds burning because of the avian flu. ducks and poultry and wild song birds. birds who are now making their way from africa back to europe. the storks who build impressive nests on the spires of cathedrals in france and spain will face execution upon their arrival home. i live with two free ranging hens of tremendous personality. i know their language well, the sharp report of annoyance, the trill of danger nearby, the chortle of a finding a juicy insect hidden below a mat of sodden leaves. i have had this pair for two years now. they are good little layers and outstanding sentries.
driving behind a tractor trailer filled with broilers on their way to slaughter i know that if these birds had lived as my pets red and dovey, each one of them would be a distinct individual. when i had brick, the chunkette brown bantam hen, she was so insecure that she was being left behind or ignored by the other chickens. it was heartbreaking to watch and impossible to set right. the famous pecking order we have come to know as an expression was played out before me in a social circle of hens. how odd to see the largest hen was the most fragile emotionally. and that ping, the golden campine so slight she was like a balloon with some feathers pasted onto it, was a fierce creature who dominated the laying box letting no other birds in. this was too much for red and dovey who were with me first and felt they deserved some respect for being the pioneers. in the end, ping and brick went to live with another chicken lady.
i read a story about a little girl in turkey who died of bird flu. the situation was the family flock was compromised with exposure to the flu and had to be destroyed. the child loved the chickens and kissed them all good bye as the distraught parents discovered too late. i know what is is to love a chicken. there are ten billion ways to die. in my own barn or forest here i could encounter a brown recluse or a murderous redneck meth addict or a cottonmouth, or die on the winding country road where speeding and not maintaining lanes are everyday, or smashed by an ice laden dead branch or shot by a poacher. so i will continue to enjoy my hennies and let the chips fall.