Pleasure & Surprise

Friday, February 14, 2020

These are my hens. Oh, how they love breadcrumbs. Anytime I approach, they race to meet me, from the chicken coop, goat house, or wherever they might be perching, pecking, or lounging in dust. They’re my last four survivors from ten years ago and a small flock of newborns. In the photo, from the bottom up, are Cinderella, Potash, Littletail, and (searching under the stump) Wellsummer.

Since these gals aren’t young, this unusually-warm winter has been a mitzvah. All are healthy, eating well, and not worrisome. Toward the end of last summer, Littletail had been a concern. She’d been picked on by the others, clearly signaling that she’s lowest on the totem pole. Many missing feathers, from pluck-outs by her sister hens, raised doubts about whether Littletail had the strength to fend off others and take care of herself. Whatever’s returned her to full feathers–the weather, her energy, or sheer luck–has my gratitude.

It’s been hard to lose any of my chickens, a fallout from having only a small flock and none destined for dinner. After years of seeing one or two giving up and dying, I’ve recognized a pattern. Most likely, the next-to-fail will be whoever’s lowest on the pecking order. I’ve tried to intervene with hens that show signs of giving up–their feathers lost, eating less, and inequality to the others. Unfortunately, when one’s ready to go, human intervention does little beyond stalling the process. My incredible Littletail! Fighting back, beautiful-looking and holding her own.

Yesterday, I planned to go for a walk with my dwarf goats, but the day turned out mostly overcast and gloomy. That afternoon, with high winds kicking up, I stayed indoors. But later in the day, I stepped out to retrieve the horses from pasture–at that very instant, a magical, amazing phenomenon: The sky came alight, and suddenly, a curtain had lifted! And I had a camera.

Dear Friends: Happy Valentine’s, and have a wonderful day. Diana

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