On Saturday, May 2, the glorious Miss Chicken died.
It was just two days after the story I wrote about her latest life adventure appeared in this space, in which I told about her possible sour crop and the quirky-looking crop bra she was sporting – and how this might be the final health battle in her long and adventurous and good life.
It was. Farewell to my little feathered friend.
In the previous story, I was careful to include a lot of the details of her life because I thought I might only be writing about her one more time, and very soon, and I didn’t want to focus on those things in her swan song (if I may mix avian metaphors). When the time came, I wanted to share how one little chicken made so many people feel so good. That was really her legacy.
I know how much people cared about this bird of undetermined heritage and how much pleasure the stories that made up her life brought to them. I know this because they’ve been telling me so for more than 10 years now. I’ve even had perfect strangers walk up to me at stores and just blurt out “How is Miss Chicken?”
People flooded me with emails and letters with stories about chickens they had as pets when they were children, or about a chicken currently in their lives. They would send me cartoons, poems and published stories. I almost felt their smiles when I read their accounts.
So, she mattered to people, if even, perhaps, just for reminding them of happy times in their own lives.
And when these very same people had issues with their chickens, they’d ask me questions. Ironic, because as a city girl, prior to meeting Miss Chicken, my only acquaintance with chickens was with the dinner variety. I forwarded many of those emails to my friend Joan Nolan, who is the angel who gave Miss C a wonderful home and life for the past decade. She would always help in one way or another – with remedies, finding new homes for chickens and frequently taking them in herself.
A whole Miss Chicken culture, if not an outright fan club, sprang up around her. And I must say once again how grateful I am to Joan and her husband, Jim, for being the caring people that they are. That above everything.
Take, for example, the birthday party Joan gave last summer in celebration of Miss Chicken’s 10th year. When planning it, she observed that since Miss C was getting older and already had some physical problems, “let’s celebrate her while we can.”
Joan invited some of the members of the fan club, and we all sat in Joan’s backyard enjoying people food while the guest of honor was presented with gifts of cucumbers and dried mealworms. We told stories and ate birthday cake. (Yes, I am well aware that we chicken people can be odd; we accept that.)
I’ve written a whole lot about life in the henhouse, including the adventures of some of the chicks Miss C raised, and now, looking back at everything, the one question I’m asked and don’t remember if I answered in print, is how she got her rather uninspired name.
My oldest son was home visiting when one cold winter day in 2009, this young and wild, black-brown chicken with yellow feet appeared in our driveway. She lived wild in my neighborhood for a year, sleeping who-knows-where, with my neighbor Marilyn and I putting food out for her.
But for those first two weeks, my son would go outside with chicken feed and just call out, “Hey, chicken, c’mon back. Food!” And so, she went from being generic “chicken” to Chicken, and when we finally trapped and moved her to Joan’s house, her name was made a bit more proper, and she became Miss Chicken.
On May 1 Miss C, whose crop was still not fully emptying and who was losing weight, willingly took her meds from Joan. But on May 2 she was no longer alert and seemed content to just lie down with her eyes closed. Joan made her as comfortable as possible by propping her with towels.
In the sunny afternoon, the flock was outdoors free-ranging, and Joan moved her out by the trees so she could be with them – including Miss Sophie, Maggie Sue, Princess and Peaches, who are some of her now-grown babies.
“I know the warmth of the sun must have felt good to her,” Joan told me. “I am grateful that without much ado, she died peacefully at 2 p.m. Jim buried her out back where so many others have been buried over the years.”
What I’ve been feeling ever since is gratitude – to Joan and to this formerly feral, standoffish, fierce mama bird who gave us so much to be happy about … even if she’d just as soon give your hand a good hard peck if you dared pick her up when her majesty wasn’t in the mood.
Yup, that was our gal.
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