One of the little joys of living on this farm (besides growing lavender of course!) is going out to the chicken coop in the morning to retrieve our breakfast. The happy clucking of our chickens as they scratch around their fenced enclosure, or the proud announcement that they have just laid an egg help to make our farm the wonderful place it is. Not only that, (and this might surprise you) but those chickens have quite distinct personalities. For example, the youngest chickens I have right now remind me of a bunch of rebellious teenage girls -- they all stick together, they’re always pushing boundaries (they lay their eggs all over the barn!), and they love to annoy their goat siblings. One of them even keeps trying to lay her eggs in the goat’s hay feeder, which the goats are not happy about at all!
Over my years as a “chicken mama,” one chicken in particular, a little Rhode Island Red named Lucy, was particularly memorable -- because this chicken thought she was a dog. Early on, I knew she was different. Though she had a nice large garden area to wander around in, that wasn’t enough for her, and she would fly up on top of the garden fence, hop over, and wander around the rest of the property.
Now one of the reasons I had put that chicken fence up was because we had a dog named Jake who didn’t understand that the chickens were not his dinner. I can’t fault him of course -- his natural instincts were just kicking in. But he had already killed a few of our chickens and although he had been scolded, I knew that he would kill more if given the opportunity. So up went the fence.
Lucy didn’t understand that of course. She was a very friendly chicken and just wanted to be with everyone else, especially me. In fact whenever I came outside, she would run up to me and squat down so that I could pet her. So to try to keep her safe, whenever I saw her out, I would go outside and pick her up, tell her in no uncertain terms that the fence was for her own protection and put her back in her enclosure -- also talking to Jake to try to communicate that this chicken was off limits.
This went on for a while -- I’d see Lucy outside of the fence, go outside and pick her up and put her back in the garden enclosure. And Jake would look up at me, distressed, confused, and fighting so hard with his natural instincts, trying to leave that chicken alone. And then one day when I went outside, Lucy came out from under the deck (which was Jake’s special place), and at that point I knew we were in trouble, because Jake definitely did not appreciate the intrusion into his special spot, especially by a chicken that he wasn’t supposed to eat.
So I picked her up and put her back and knew her days were numbered. As you might guess, one day it was just too much for him, and we lost that funny little hen. But I never faulted Jakey. And I never forgot that hen.
This is something I’ve had to get used to -- losing animals. I don’t like that part. But I cherish every little life that has been entrusted to me, love their unique personalities, and am grateful for their gifts and the joy they bring to us all.
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife, English teacher, writer, and lavender farmer who lives in Dundee Oregon .