My Stories || Barbara Mark II
Chickens don't live forever. In fact, they have incredibly short lives.
I've just lost Barbara. Or, to give her her full name, Barbara Mark II. She was named five years ago, after an almost identical chicken we lost a short while earlier. She was the only hybrid we bought that day. I'd been to the farm with the intention of buying some Cream Legbars - some green/blue egg layers, but somehow Barbara Mark II found herself in a box and came home with me.
She seen lots of changes in our field. She's seen other chickens come and seen the older ones die off. She's lived with electric fencing, with a various array of chicken houses. She's hunted for worms and got in the way as we dug a base for the new, static, chicken run.
She was always the first one, annoyingly, to make her way through the field gate and into the garden. I'd turn around from the kitchen sink and find her, looking at me, from the patio doors. Or, I'd hear a noise, the tinkle of pebbles flying everywhere I later discovered, when I was sitting in the lounge. It would be her, looking for interesting treats in the stones between the brick work of the house and the patio edges.
I spoiled her. If she was at the patio window and no other chickens were about, I'd pop into the fridge and take out a nice juicy grape for her. She loved them. A couple of gulps and it would be gone. And then she'd be back for another.
I didn't mind spoiling her. Early last year she'd survived a fox attack. After a duck disappeared the day before I put everyone on lock down. But the cunning fox had still managed to squeeze into the door of a run and pull Barbara out with her. I came out the back door, after my lunch, just in time. "Hey," I'd shouted. And DogFace and I gave chase. Barbara was dropped and I cuddled her, waiting for both our heart rates to calm down, willing her not to die of shock, before placing her in the darkness and security of the chicken coop. She came out a few hours later, none the worse for wear bar a few missing feathers.
Last weekend, Easter weekend, she was drenched. The other chickens had been wet, too, but they'd fluffed back up again in the sunshine. She was just shivering in a corner, hunched over, tail down.
I scooped her up, I knew she'd not been quite right for a while, and held her in my arms, watching in wonder as she let out a small sigh and closed her eyes. I covered her in the dog's towel and held her, then when I realised she still wasn't drying off, I blew her gently with my hairdryer. Then placed her on the boiler, which was emitting a gentle heat, to keep warm.
Sadly, after a few ups and downs during the week, Barbara went to sleep for the last time last night. I knew it was going to happen. I picked her up yesterday and gave her a cuddle. She closed her eyes and relaxed, curling her feet around my fingers.
When I checked on her later her breathing had changed. It won't be long, I thought. But I left her where she was. And that's where I found her this morning.
I was expecting it, but, even so, a sudden tear came to my eye.
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