‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Death of a Chicken

Unlike other chicken eulogies you may have read here, this one is mostly true. (A sentence you don't get to type every day.)

Jewel was the chicken who inspired Sugarplum to tell people about "mama's favorite chicken" - people who may have wished they didn't know that mama had a favorite chicken. This is one of those things you overhear and then set the wastebasket on fire so people's attention is drawn elsewhere.

But it was true.

We did not choose Jewel. She was a stowaway. We had ordered, among other breeds, a black australorp but when it came time to figure out which chick was which, we found it puzzling. I know it sounds chicken-racist, but some of them look very much alike.

So we ended up with a barred rock instead of a black australorp. We like to think Jewel chose to come live with us and perhaps disguised her features to avoid detection. By the time we figured it out, it was too late. The flock had all gotten to know each other. The missing australorp was happy in her new home. All was well.

A couple years ago I went through some extended family nonsense and had to spend most of my time away from home. When I'd pop in to recalibrate, I'd visit the chickens in their yard, where Jewel always came over and waited for me to pet her. There is something weirdly reassuring about a chicken's love when your world is going massively awry. Probably because most of them would just as soon eat you if you stayed still long enough. You expect love and support from your partner, children, dog or cat, but when you also get it from a chicken it feels like the universe has put a sticky note on your head that says something... universey.

Last year when we were on vacation, our chicken-sitters woke up in the middle of the night to a terrible sound of clucking and squawking. They ran to the coop and chased out a raccoon who had broken through the defenses of Fort McChicken. There were no casualties, but Jewel had taken a hit.

Here's how I think it went down: When the raccoon broke into the coop, all the chickens raised the alarm except Jewel, who bravely stood between the raccoon and the other hens. Chickens peck pretty hard and I bet the raccoon is still sporting some chicken scarring. She fended off the attack until reinforcement arrived.

The raccoon cut the wires to the alarm system and surveillance, so it's my word against nobody's.

Jewel survived, but we were not optimistic.

As we nursed her back to health, we noticed that three of the other chickens protected her somewhat fiercely. One chicken, Tulip, did not. Tulip was kind of a jerk. You will here note that Tulip did not get a eulogy when she was eaten by a fox.

In the months that followed, Jewel proved herself to be the kind of fighter that would fend off a raccoon attack and live to tell the tale. Her broken beak healed but carried the mark of bravery. Jewel was a very brave chicken.

Last night, tucked into her nesting box, Jewel passed away quietly in her sleep. I imagine her singing "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" to the other hens as she passed.

She will be missed.

And I don't care who knows it: She was mama's favorite chicken.


Greg said...

Damn, I never shed a tear for a chicken before. May Jewel rest in peace in Chicken Heaven. Condolences to you.

Cherie Beyond said...

We lost Peewee, our daughter's favorite, in a mystery attack a few months ago. She, too, was defending the flock...while our rooster fled to the woods like a coward.

I don't care too much about most of the chickens, but some stand above the rest as brave and hearty souls. Peewee touched our hearts. Plus, she was the only one we had that laid blue eggs, so that sucked. RIP, Jewel. I hope Peewee was there to meet you and show you to the food bin on the other side.

Don't worry about my daughter, though. After hearing about Peewee's departure, she was silent for 30 seconds. Then she declared, "That's okay. Goldilocks is my new favorite now." Fickle little beast, that one.

Celia said...

Poor Jewel. Isn't it amazing how animals people insist are dumb, are so clearly not dumb? Here's to Jewel a queen among chickens,

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

A fine tribute to a fine bird.

I believe the dirty little secret of the barnyard is that everyone has a favorite chicken. When Blondie disappeared, Kevin and I walked through the woods, calling her name -- as if that could ever help.

Blondie's story isn't as heroic as Jewel's -- she got shut in the neighbor's garage -- but we feel your pain.

Steve said...

So Jewel has passed from the realm of "bird" to that of "meat".
Sad yes, but I hope you didn't waste the potential meal.....

Susan said...

Greg, you probably never knew a chicken like Jewel.

Cherie - I'm glad to know Jewel will have a buddy. Her best friend lays blue eggs, so I'm sure they'll get along.

Celia, your comment on the last Jewel post appeared as the pop quote when I posted it to facebook. Hilarious.

Tamar - Did you find her in time to... you know... bury her properly (under some carrots and potatoes)?

Steve - Our hens are, how to say this delicately...elderly. We did however consecrate her to the wilderness, where she will not go to waste. It appeases the coyotes.

Cheryl said...

Jewel we hardly knew ye. When you cross over the Rainbow Bridge, please say hi to Henry and Henrietta. Tell Hy&Ha I didn't have a choice about eating them. I was only 9 and my dad made us all eat a wing, a thigh, or a stringy piece of breast meat. Don't forget to give my love to Hiram. We ate him too. He was a steer and much more tender than Hy&Ha. I liked him best. And not at all for his flavor.

JAbel said...

Here's hoping Jewel is roaming that big chicken rub in the sky or where the bluebird sings to the lemonade springs on The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

JAbel said...

Well that should have been Chicken Run.Rub sounds foodish.

Logical Libby said...

I now feel bad about the chicken we had for dinner. I bet it wasn't as awesome as Jewel though. It didn't taste gutsy.

Susan said...

To quote Sugarplum - "chickens are so cute and SO DELICIOUS."

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Aw boo. I hate it when animals die, even other people's animals. I will, as the Quakers say, hold Jewel in the light.

(We'll just ignore the fact that we've sent more than one animals to its doom ourselves for our own selfish appetites. The ones the hawks get are totally different.)

Lemon Gloria said...

Oh, Jewel. What a brave little chicken! Raccoons are mean and evil and I'm afraid of them.

As for Tulip, well, I suppose there is Chicken Karma as well.