Sorry I’ve been gone for so long. Maybe you’ve missed the barnyard. No excuses from me except I haven’t felt I’ve had the time to write something properly.
But now, yesterday, Lucy died. She seemed fine on Friday. I was able to spend a lot of time in the barnyard, my favorite place in the world, hanging out with my good animal friends. Lucy was scratching and pecking like she didn’t have a care in the world.
But at 7am, morning feeding time, she was obviously in distress. I told her I loved her, put her in the carrier, moved her to the car and went back inside to grab my keys and coffee. She died before I got back to the car. I am heartbroken.
While I have about a million things I want to say, I think the best thing is to share with you is a little story I wrote about Lucy and her friend Ethel. I wrote it after Ethel died, hoped to find someone to illustrate it, but it wound up in the bottom of a drawer. Here it is.
One day, a man and a lady were sitting on their porch. “Your birthday is coming soon,” the man said. “What can I give you? Chocolates? Earrings? A trip to the ocean?”
The lady thought, and finally said…. “Well, I’ve always wanted some chickens.”
“Hmm. Really? Are you sure you don’t want chocolates?” the man asked.
They lived in a little house with a big yard. The lady thought it was a perfect place for chickens. The man was not so sure, but he loved the lady too much to say no. They built a chicken coop and made space in the garage for a brooder box, where the baby chicks would live.
When everything was ready, the man came home with a package—a CHEEPING package!
The lady put the chicks into the brooder box, under a lamp to keep them toasty warm. That night, she checked on them. They were all huddled together, sleeping.
All the chicks…except Lucy. She was perched on the edge of the box, looking around the garage.
The lady said, “Lucy, you can’t sleep there!” Lucy looked at the lady. The lady could have sworn Lucy was smiling. She gently grabbed Lucy, put her back in the box and said, “Lucy, this is where you should sleep—with the other chicks.”
Lucy glared at the lady. She was not happy.
In the morning, they had a talk. “Lucy, you need to sleep with the other chicks to stay warm.”
Lucy said, “I’m not cold. And I like sitting up there.”
The lady paused for a minute and finally said, “Well, be careful.”
The chicks grew up into beautiful young hens. It was time to move into their coop! They loved their new home and the roost where they would sleep. That evening, all the hens marched into the coop and hopped up onto the roost, ready for bed.
All the hens…except Lucy.
“Lucy! Where are you?” the lady called. The lady looked everywhere—no Lucy. She look at the dog Keela and said, “Do you know where Lucy is, Keela?” Keela watched over the chickens and knew exactly where Lucy was. She trotted to the coop, looked up and barked once. The lady looked up. There was Lucy, sitting on TOP of the coop!
The lady said, “Lucy, you can’t sleep there!” Lucy looked at the lady. The lady could have sworn Lucy was smiling. The next evening the lady took Lucy into the coop. “Lucy, you sleep here, ok?“
Lucy glared at the lady. She was not happy.
In the morning, they had a talk. “Lucy, you need to sleep with the other hens. Foxes and coyotes live around here. Keela sleeps inside and can’t keep you safe at night.”
“It’s boring in the coop and I like sleeping outside.” Lucy replied. “But I’ll think about it.” She didn’t want to be chicken dinner for a fox.
The lady paused for a minute. “Well, be careful.”
The next night, the lady was sure she would find Lucy in the coop. She looked—no Lucy. To make matters worse, another hen was missing! “Keela! Help me find Lucy and Ethel!” the lady called.
Keela was on it. She trotted over to a tree, looked up and barked once.
The lady looked up. Lucy and Ethel were sitting in the tree! “Foxes and coyotes can’t climb trees. I asked the birds who sleep here. We’re safe,” said Lucy.
The lady sighed. Lucy was one smart chicken. “Ethel, are you ok?” she asked. “You don’t need to do what Lucy does, you know.”
“I’m fine!” Ethel replied. “The robins are funny, and the view is wonderful!”
The lady paused for a minute. “Well, girls—be careful.”
In the morning, they had a talk. “OK. You’re safe from the foxes and coyotes. But soon the snow will come. The birds will fly south. You’ll be wet and cold in the snow.”
“You worry too much, Lady,” Lucy said.
Lucy and Ethel loved sleeping in the tree. They didn’t think about the snow. Every night the lady called up to them, “You ok, girls?”
“Yes we are!” they replied.
“Ok, then, sleep tight!”
Soon fall arrived. It got colder and their robin friends started leaving for their winter homes. Then one night, it started to snow. “Whoa, the lady was right,” Lucy said.
Ethel was scared. “What are we going to do, Lucy?”
Lucy said, “Don’t worry. I’ll think of something.”
The next morning, the lady asked, “What did you think about our first snow? You two ought to sleep in the coop tonight.”
But Lucy had other ideas. She threw her wing around Ethel and whispered, “Come on. Let’s go find a new place to sleep. I think I know someone who can help us.”
The lady watched as they wandered around. “I wonder what those two are up to,” she thought. She smiled as they rounded the corner of the house, following Keela as she sniffed around in the leaves.
It was getting dark. Snow was starting to fall. The lady couldn’t find Lucy and Ethel in the tree or the coop. She ran to the house and almost tripped over Keela, who was sitting right inside the door. The lady cried, “Keela, can you help me find Lucy and Ethel?” Keela wagged her tail, looked up and barked once.
The lady looked up. Lucy and Ethel were sitting on the curtain rod above the big door. Lucy said, “Hey lady, we found a new place to sleep!” The lady could have sworn Lucy was smiling.
“LUCY! You’re a CHICKEN! Chickens don’t sleep in the house!” said the lady, totally undone by chickens roosting on her curtains.
“Hey, Keela sleeps in the house. Why can’t we sleep here?” Lucy asked. “Please?”
The lady sighed. “Well, ladies, if it’s ok with Keela, it’s ok with me.” She looked at Keela. The lady could have sworn Keela was smiling.
Eventually spring came, and Lucy and Ethel moved back outside to the tree. Sleeping inside was nice, but they loved being among the leaves and feeling the evening breeze. Plus, the other birds were returning from their winter homes and had great stories to tell!
The man and the lady sat on the porch every evening, watching the chickens. One day the man said, “Your birthday is coming soon. What can I give you? Chocolates? Earrings? A trip to the ocean?”
She thought for a minute, and finally said, “Well, I’ve always wanted a pig…”
Real chickens did all these things. Lucy was the most independent, smart chicken I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and Ethel would follow her anywhere. And chickens roosting on a curtain rod in the living room? Yep, that was Kit the house rooster, trusty family pet of my friend Dawn.
I will miss Lucy so much. She added joy to my life. I hope she’s with Ethel, they’ve flown up into a tree and are listening to the travel stories the spring robins have to tell.