Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Gracie the Chicken
Gracie the Chicken died last week. She was lively all summer—arguing with the Peeps and the blue jays about who controlled what turf, pushing her way up on the perch at night, running for Chicken Treat, but two weeks ago, she just started to sleep all day in the sun. Her naps grew longer and longer until Sunday, when I was able to pick her up and bring her around to Mark. She weighed nothing and did not put up any fuss, which is totally unheard of for Gracie. “She’s not doing well,” Mark observed. We patted her for a bit and I set her down in a prime sunny spot. When we came back from a walk, I went out to snug the ladies in and she was lying on the grass in the misty night, wet. We brought her inside, dried her off, and covered her with a towel, expecting her to be gone by morning. She hung in there for two days in the kitchen, just sleeping, before dying on Wednesday night.
We’ll miss Gracie. She’s been with us for five years. I got her from Rachel, who had to pass her on because, as I found out after I’d taken her into the yard, she was an escape artist. That winter and spring, I would come home from school to find notes on my door: “Chased your chicken back into the yard” or “your chicken was in the alley.” It was a neighborhood bonding experience until we closed all of the gaps in the fence that George and Myrtle had never bothered to find. Gracie never liked going into the coop at night, either. We would go out to lock the ladies in and she would be perched on the roof like a hood ornament, waiting for us to throw her in.
Gracie laid amazing eggs—deep brown, pointed, and huge—well into the winter every year. She was never broody; she rarely spread her wings and froze when threatened, which is usually instinctive for a chicken to protect its chicks. She was an independent minded chicken, an early Feminist as it were, not tied down, even in her little brain, to eggs. Once laid, she was done. She was hard to catch, to pin down, to lure into the coop.
Last summer, when The Peeps arrived, two gentle, soft Buff Orpingtons, she decided that she was no longer a chicken, but a rooster. She stopped laying. She grew very bossy and aggressive. She crowed, long and loud, on a regular basis. She took up roosting outside on the handles of the coop, bringing Herma, who is not very bright at all, along with her. She terrorized The Peeps for months. “Stewpot,” Mark muttered early in the morning, after rising to let the squawking birds out so that they would not wake up the neighborhood for the forth morning in a row.
Gracie was not an easy to chicken to have around. She was bossy, loud, and demanding. But her deep red feathers spread smoothly over her boney frame beautifully; her eggs were huge; and she was no dummy. We will miss her. And George, at eleven, still rules the roost.