So, over the weekend, my sweet Maggie died.
The details are horrendous and tragic and still preventing me from wanting anything to do with Molly, our Great Pyrenees, but I'm hoping time will heal the wounds.
The short version is that somehow (we still don't know how), the gate to Molly's pen was opened, and she got out into the goat field while we were away. She played with the goats and scared them pretty good but, thankfully, didn't hurt any of them. Maggie, who is free to roam as she wishes, was apparently in the wrong place at the wrong time. Oh, my sweet, sweet Maggie.
I should probably go ahead and explain this because every time one of my kids retells the story, it involves me kicking the dog. So, yes, I kicked the dog. But, in my defense, it was in an attempt to get her to stop eating my pet chicken that she'd just killed. Wouldn't you have kicked her too?
It had been a long, rough week for us, and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. So, what followed the ordeal was my big unraveling. Yes, sometimes I unravel. We'd brought Maggie to the house to save her from being pecked to death by the other 100 chickens. We'd brought Molly to the house to serve as a guardian for our animals. It was all just so sad. And, I realize that most won't be able to identify with this, but I Ioved that stinkin' chicken. And, so, I cried. To be more accurate, I sobbed over that chicken.
Here's a little recap of Maggie's life with us -- a chicken eulogy of sorts:
Maggie was one our original eight. When, back in 2011, we decided we were ready to step up the production of our own food and grow beyond our backyard garden, we brought home 8 chickens to live in our new little chicken tractor. Maggie was one of that gang. She'd been with us from the start -- from before we'd even dreamed up Brood Farm.
This past November, when we bought the giant chicken wagon and its 100 or so inhabitants and moved it to the farm, we moved our current gang -- including Maggie -- over there as well. But she didn't fare so well over there.
She helped remind us that a farm like ours is not about the bottom line. When we brought her home to save her from the relentless pecking of her peers rather than doing the easier thing and sending her to the stock pot, we were able to practice the first part of our farm's tag line: "Take care."
And, when we brought her home to heal, you, our blog readers, helped us name her. It was Mr. Yancey, a dedicated reader who gets credit for naming our sweet girl Maggie.
We moved her in to the chicken tractor in the backyard where we were also growing a few more laying and meat hens. But, they shunned her. She hung out by herself and got little feed. . . until the day she busted out of the tractor. And, she just looked so happy running freely around the yard that I couldn't bring myself to pen her back up after all she'd been through -- and so s began her free reign over the backyard.
She quickly took to the goats, who were much more kind to her than her peers had been, and hung with them like she was one of the herd. Each morning, she'd meet Girl 1 and I in the milking shed, waiting for her share of the goat's grain.
And, when we needed to train our quiet Maggie to stop sleeping in the milking shed and move into her very own private chicken tractor at bedtime, she acquiesced without a fight.
And, then, despite, all she'd been through, once she'd healed up and become a part of the goat herd and our little backyard tag-a-long, (miracle of miracles for an aging chicken) she began laying those gorgeous eggs again. And continued to lay at a rate of one beautiful blue egg per day, like clockwork, right up until the day she died.
When Little Boy's preschool class had Farm Day at school, I packed Maggie up and toted her to the preschool classroom with me. There, I held her as I told the kids about all she'd been through, using her tale as an object lesson about bullying and picking on those who are different than you, and the children just loved her. They lined up to pet her and marveled at how beautiful and soft she was. One little girl looked at me wide-eyed as she gently petted Maggie and told me, "She's just like an angel!" I think the little outing was good for Maggie's self-esteem. ;)
We took Maggie's little body back to the farm and buried her under a big tree. We gathered around and each threw a little goat feed, her favorite treat, into the hole and reminisced about some of our favorite Maggie stories before filling the hole back in with dirt. We set a rock atop the loose dirt to mark the place. The next morning, Girl 1 packed a baggie full of nail polish before we headed over to the farm and while I was busy doing chores, painted Maggie's name on the rock.
We've lost lots of chickens. And we'll lose more. We'll probably even have some pretty special ones in the future, too. But, Maggie held a special place in our hearts. We took great joy in her healing, in her beautiful re-grown feathers, in her happy pecking and scratching, in her seeming appreciation of our presence as she'd follow us around the yard. She even managed in her lifetime to teach us some things about ourselves. It's funny how animals can do that.