I wrote this a few months before the twins were born in response to a magazine ad. The prompt was: Poultry Pets. It was for a contest, the winner received $100. They liked my story, but I didn’t win. However it felt great to write this all down.
Poultry Pets (due October 9, 2009)
It was early fall when we sold our home, packed up our RV and moved to a small country town. My parents had 20 acres and we parked our RV on an acre of it. We had grand plans. My husband had a job already lined up and without the crushing bills of a mortgage we’d pay off what debt we had and start to save for our own place just a few acres down from my parents. But alas, plans don’t always work out and sometimes we have to make changes as we go.
What was to be 6 months in a 27’ RV turned out to be 14 months of what I like to call “Wondering in the Wilderness”. (Our Fleetwood Wilderness to be exact.) Those 14 months were a real test of our marriage, my relationship with my parents and had me questioning decisions I had made about staying home with our daughter. Questions I had been so sure were right, but was questioned daily by others. To say it was not a good time would be an understatement.
While trying to figure out how we’d get out of the mess that was our new life I started to care for my dad’s chickens, just yards from our RV. He had a scraggly bunch that only produced about 1 or 2 eggs a day. After reading up on chickens and how to raise them I discovered that the problem was simple. He had 5 hens and 2 roosters. That would never do. So my first order of business was to separate at least one of the males until he was big enough to eat. Dad helped and in no time we had the girls looking better and egg production went up to 4 and 5 a day. This worked out well with the new addition of my husband, daughter and I. We were never short on eggs.
It wasn’t long till my 4-year-old daughter decided to name them. First it was Cinderella, she was a pretty speckled hen. Next I would name the two long necked hens the Ugly Step-Sisters. She loved that since neither liked her. (Truth was none of them did. She chased them daily.) The other two we kept simple, Brown Girl and White Girl. You could guess how they looked. And the roosters we never named. We didn’t like them since they harassed the girls so much.
As the weeks turned in to months and I started to care for our little herd, as I called it, I found Brown Girl was always the first to greet me and would follow me as I cleaned out the coup. I expected her near when I feed and watered them, but to follow my every step while cleaning seemed odd. So one day I tested her. I bent down, put my hand out expecting a peck, but instead she stepped closer to me. So I picked her up. I was ready for an attack, but instead she settled in to my arms and looked around the yard as if she was in her rightful place.
I had to laugh because she was the scrawniest of the hens. Not only had the other girls pulled half her feathers out, but she had to fight for whatever food she could get. I was never sure if she laid eggs or not, but was pretty sure she didn’t. After that experience though I made a point to water and feed her first. I always called out her name when I was walking past the yard and I would pick her up every chance I got. It wasn’t long before I would go to the yard during bouts of depression and I would sit on the straw with her in my arms, petting and talking to her. She had a calming effect on me.
After several months of pampering I noticed she was filling out and she started to make a point of announcing when she had laid an egg. This is by no means odd behavior, as most hens like to announce all their accomplishments. But this was different. When I’d step in to the coup she’d hop on her nest as if to say, “See what I did?” And she did well. She would lay the biggest, prettiest brown eggs, and nearly ever day. She became the top producer and I could swear she knew it.
As spring rolled around I started to notice that White Girl was lying on her nest all day. After a bit of research I realized she was brooding and decided to be kind to her and remove the fake eggs and replaced them with a few real ones. Never knowing if it would work. Low and behold one day I went out to feed my girls and saw a chick pop its head out from under her. I was like a little kid on Christmas morning. I yelled in excitement, I took pictures, I ran all over the property telling my daughter, calling my husband and running up to tell mom and dad.
A day later she hatched another, in total she had 5, so we created an area just for White Mama as she was now dubbed. It was a special time for me. My girls were flourishing and I had just found out I was pregnant. My daughter and I watched the chicks grow and as we sat outside the smaller nesting area Brown Girl was always in my lap, patiently letting me pet her. Between the pregnancy, the chicks and Brown Girl, my 14 months didn’t seem so bad. But like our other plans, things changed.
At 12 weeks I miscarried. This was not my first miscarriage, but it was my worst. After two trips to the ER I was lower then I had ever been. Life just didn’t hold much for me anymore. I remember walking to the coup and thinking we would never get out of this mess. That life had been so good until we had decided to take a leap of faith. It felt like we hit every jagged outcropping along the way. And Brown Girl knew it. She stopped bragging about her eggs and started to peck at my feet each day until I’d pick her up. She’d stand in front of the gate and not let me leave unless I picked her up and moved her. She made sure I never ignored her.
One day, just weeks after the miscarriage, I sat down with her and just cried. My daughter was with her grandparents, Tommy was at work, and I was feeling nothing but self pity. Normally Brown Girl would just sit in my arms and look at the other hens, but this time she moved closer to me and put her head right under my chin. I think I cried even harder. She had been going broody and sat on a nest for nearly 8 weeks with no success. In my mind she was mourning right along with me.
It wasn’t long after that one of my husband’s three jobs turned in to full time. He had seen what those 14 months had done to me and decided to take over. He took the job, bought us a house and moved us to a bigger town where I could start over. He would have been happy in the country, but I was too lonely. As much as I loved my girls, I needed human interaction.
Just weeks before our move dogs got in to the coup and killed Brown Girl, it was as simple as that. One day we were comforting each other and the next she was gone. My reaction was strange to me. I’m usually quick to cry, but instead I found myself hugging her lifeless body and telling her it was okay. Starting over is a good thing. I had dad dispose of her body because I couldn’t and that was it. My time with the girls was over. I had no desire to do it any more. I was moving on.
It’s been a year since the miscarriage and I’m happy to say that in less then a month I’m expecting twins, a boy and a girl. My husband loves his job and I’ve met and befriend a lot of people in our new town. Many people will tell you that once you leave a bad situation you eventually look back on it fondly. I guess it’s not been long enough, because I still don’t. Life has changed, for the better, and though my 14 months was the lowest period of my life, Brown Girl made it bearable.