I’m feeling a little sad today. My sweet Charlotte (above) is no longer with us. And it is my fault. 😦 I’ve been down sick with a bad cold, along with most of the rest of the household, and wasn’t thinking clearly, I suppose, and I forgot to go out and lock the girls in for the night last night. Jeff arrived home after a long day out around dark and wasn’t really thinking about chickens either.
In the middle of the night, it suddenly came to me that I had forgotten them. I wasn’t concerned that they had run off – chickens are home-bodies, and just naturally return to their coop at nightfall each evening. I wasn’t even concerned about the fact that my forgetting about them meant I hadn’t fed them for the night – they had been out foraging the yard all day yesterday and were okay to make it until morning without feed.
No, what struck a note of fear in my heart was the fact that they were out in their pen, completely unprotected, since the gate to the pen was never shut and locked up for the night – leaving the girls veritable “sitting ducks” or literally “sitting chickens”.
I woke Jeff up and had him keep watch from the porch (in case a crazy night creature tried to attack me), and headed out to the pen,
cellphone flashlight in hand, with trepidation about what I was going to find. Sure enough, the gate to the pen was wide open, just as I had left it earlier in the day when I let the girls out for the day. I started counting chickens…one…two…three…four…five…I counted again…one, two, three, four, five. I shone the light all around the pen. I noticed the waterer was knocked over, a red flag since it’s very sturdy and too heavy for the girls to knock over themselves. And then I saw the feathers, black and white striped feathers strewn around the cage – more than the usual strays that adorn the coop daily.
They belonged to Charlotte, one of my favorites. My heart sank. She was our last remaining Plymouth Barred Rock chicken, my favorite breed – I’ve always loved her ruffley, black and white stripes paired with her striking red comb – such a beauty! Her sister, Nimrod (don’t ask), had died last month after becoming ill, so I really didn’t want to lose Charlotte too!
I looked around to make sure she wasn’t anywhere in the cage, but she was gone, carried away by some creature of the night – a raccoon, owl, bobcat? I checked on the rest of the girls, who were sitting quietly, three huddled together on top of the old rabbit hutch where they sleep each night, and two roosting in the nesting boxes inside the hutch. I told them I was so sorry for forgetting them… for failing to protect them…for allowing their secure home to be invaded. With a heavy heart, I closed the gate, latched it, and headed back to the house, reporting the sad news to Jeff, waiting on the porch.
We’ve had our chickens for almost 3 years now, and it amazes me that the one time that I forgot to lock them in, a predator was ready and waiting to seize the opportunity. I thought about these night creatures, and how they survive and feed their little ones by being aware and diligent. I imagined a contented little family of wild ones being blessed by my mistake. It is God’s way of caring for his creation, and it is a good thing, for now, until the day He puts everything to rights and the “lion lays down with the lamb”.
One thing having chickens has taught me is to hold them loosely, because their lives are fragile, and can be gone quickly. It’s part of owning chickens, and I accept that. It also is a reminder to me that God holds all of us in the palm of His hand – our every breath is ordained by Him, and is in His control. There is blessing in appreciating all of life around us and thanking Him for it!
I will miss seeing my pretty Charlotte scratching around the yard with the other girls, but will thank the Lord that I was able to enjoy her for the time I had her. And with spring just around the corner, I’m thinking that maybe some new baby chicks might be in our “tomorrow” – definitely some Plymouth Barred Rocks!