One of my favorite little hens passed away this morning. Sweet Fern. She was a partridge rock breed, with rich brown feathers and a bright red single comb. I raised her and her twin sister, Tilly, from chicks. It may seem silly to think you can get attached to a chicken, but Fern was a fixture around the farm yard. You could not walk the coop or the yard without hearing her happy chatter or seeing her fluffy feathered bottom under foot.
Fern was friendly, one of friendliest of the flock. She was always eager to search your pockets for treats or investigate a grocery bag for something yummy.
Fern was brave. She once had a knot pop up on one of her toes. I tried doctoring it, but we ended up at the vet. Fern came home minus a toe but that didn’t slow her down one bit! She was right back out on the yard the next day, like nothing ever happened.
Fern was smart. She survived many predator attacks on the coop and in the yard. She was alert and aware. She knew where safety was and always managed to stay far from danger.
Fern was funny. She would jump up, high up into the air - higher than you would imagine a chicken could jump, if you held out a meal worm for her. She could run like the wind too – if there was a beetle or cricket to chase.
And Fern was sweet. She loved me to scratch her cheeks. She loved dust baths with her flock friends. She loved sun bathing on the deck in the mornings. She loved bug hunting with her hen friends in the afternoons. Fern loved being a chicken.
Last night, as I closed down the coop, I knew Fern was ill. She had tucked herself into a nest box, which she never did, and didn’t want to come out. I stroked her cheeks and comb and sat with her for a moment.
To look at her, she was perfect. Her comb and wattles were of excellent color. Her feathers were fine and smooth. Her skin was good. Her crop was full from foraging all day. But then, she looked at me with those pretty amber eyes and I could see that there was a distance in her once bright gaze. She tucked her head under her wing and went to sleep.
This morning, little Fern was gone. She passed peacefully last night. Sleep well, sweet girl. You were a fine, fine hen.