Memorial to a Good Hen

How does one memorialize the life of a chicken? Our Truffle Hen, a source of great joy, laughs, and surprise went to live in Chicken Heaven on Easter Sunday. Of all days, the target of a determined canine.

Truffle was faithful to our yard and disliked deeply by the three sister-hens. Aside from nights in the coop, she preferred to wander the yard alone, living truly off the land, free to pick and peck through each day, of her own accord. Since escaping the fox and sacrificing her toe, she had been venturing bit by bit away from home base. More dog than chicken, when she had a request, she made her pleas known through getting underfoot  and chirping until we received her messages. Often, we talked back, engaging in a discussion that seemed to mean something. She routinely cocked her head in understanding, peering out of the corner of her eye as if to say I get it, I totally understand. Now, would you please provide me with some scratch? I could really use a treat.

The other three hens do not challenge our yard system. They go about their days eating, drinking, laying, pecking, in the fenced yard safe from predators. Truffle was not to be contained. She, if she remained in the fence, was targeted, chased and under-appreciated by her own kind. Her puppy-like skills were not treasured. She was required, for her own survival in the system, to leave. The three sister-hens were not going to be reasoned with, especially the broody one. She was determined to let Truffle know her place in the pecking order.

The benefits of our chicken’s freedom will be remembered. The nutritional impact of her eggs – priceless, small but perfect, the yolks a deep, almost fluorescent orange from foraging through fresh grass, fertilizing in the process.

Could we have forced her to stay in the fence? Sure, we could have reinforced and fashioned a ceiling of sorts, but at what price? Truffle’s only chance for a happy, healthy life was to leave the comfort of the coop and the fence. She had no other choice.

I’m not sure how much I believe in past lives or reincarnation, but if I could, I will go so far as to say, she was sent here to be my example. Not only to show me that chickens have personalities too, but to reveal the beauty and risk in living as an outlier. All of us are outliers. To assume there is a “normal” does us all a disservice. How many layers of masks do we have to wear to appear normal?

Most of us prefer the comfort of our fences, our friends, families. Some of us are thrust out into the world whether we want to be or not…but we are given a choice, to continue our safe, comfortable lives, or to seek out our calling. There is no wrong or right answer. The lives of the other three hens are deeply appreciated, also. Their eggs better than anything out of the grocery, their unique personalities also known to us. The comic relief not present, but their faithfulness to the needs of our home and life? Absolutely noted.

It seems, in our culture of extremes, that a life lived “extraordinary” is better than that which is loyal or simple. Not true! There is no formula for a life lived well. All of us are called to different things, based upon our unique abilities, our life experiences, suffering, joy. I want to live into my calling. Do I wish I was okay with choosing a safe life, sequestered and cloistered in the predictability of my days, the comfortable tasks, the ease of regular roles? Of course, sometimes, but when I see the fruit of lives lived challenging assumed norms, the deep grooves in the lines around eyes, the tears that have run the lengths of those furrows, this is what I want…a life lived by feeling, through knowing, scared to death, believing, daring.

Our Truffle. We kept a regular eye on her. We were surprised by her and clearly she brought many stories and laughs to our lives. The Easter Sunday morning we were gone, she died.

Will she resurrect? Probably not again as a chicken…but maybe, just a little bit…in me.

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