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Love & Loss

I’ve never been particularly good at curtailing my emotions. Certain commercials for brand name coffee and supermarket companies make my eyes tear and a lump swell up in my throat every time. When I meet a new friend I click with, I become positively jubilant. I hold the people that I love very close to my heart and profess that love to them effusively and often. There’s a reason Glenn has dubbed me a “compulsive divulger.” 

This tendency of mine generally works in my favor. People know exactly where they stand with me and I find an opportunity to clear out my tear ducts every few days.  On occasion, though, it backfires. When I am hurt, or disappointed, I feel it profoundly. Wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve leaves one exposed to all manner of potential wounding. 

And so it was this past Saturday evening that the loss of a faithful companion hit me hard. My beloved hen Uno met an untimely demise. I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but suffice to say, her death must have come swiftly as, quite literally, she lost her head. I was the first to find her, in the dark, as Glenn and I returned from a family outing around 7 p.m. to lock up the henhouse. She was on the snow, inside the chicken run, directly in front of the entrance gate. I felt like I’d been hit with a snow shovel in the gut. 

Honestly, I had no idea I would react so intensely to the death of one of my chickens. I’d braced myself since day one for the potential for death. These creatures live outside, straddling a wild/domesticated fence, and are at all times at risk from potential illnesses, cold, and predators. No amount of mental preparation readies you for a death, though. Especially when my flock is so small. Especially because I then began experiencing an enormous amount of guilt, that if I’d gotten home right at sundown (as is my usual course with my chickens), that I could have prevented her death. The truth, though, is that any of my flock of 5 could pass on at any time. Chickens, just like humans, are fragile, just like all beings, really. Everything is temporary, anyways, right? We’re all just passing through.

Uno was a true gem. She was wildly affectionate, letting me pet and pick her up, even soliciting “hugs”, if you can let yourself imagine that. She was a good layer and a fun friend and she will be missed. She provided love and laughter and nourishment and just the right amount of time together. Her passing reminds me of just how tenuous of a contract with life we all have. Forgiving grievances, keeping no record of wrongs, saying you’re sorry, and telling those you love just how much you do, and telling them often, is Uno’s enduring legacy to me. Rest in peace, sweet friend. 

*Image courtesy of Lark Books, provided by the enormously gifted Lynne Harty, taken at my coop November 2008. 

20 Responses to Love & Loss

  • nicole says:

    You know how sad I am to hear about this. Your hens are the ones that have taught me the true joys of keeping chickens. I've watched them with delight, enjoyed their wonderful eggs, and gained an entirely new and very real appreciation about chickenhood. Uno was a great lady, and she will be missed. I'm happy that beautiful images of her will live on in your upcoming book to teach so many others about the benefits of backyard hens. Much love to you and to your other (likely rather distressed) feathered friends.

  • Meredith says:

    I've been reading your blog for a few months now and I love it, but really felt compelled to comment on this entry…I am truly sorry for the loss of Uno. Over the years I've had maybe a dozen different chickens who were really special to me – sharing all of the above qualities with Uno – and losing each and every one of them was a real blow emotionally. I have a few little bunches of loose feathers (collected at the scene, as it were) for some of my favorite chickens, and I treasure them as reminders of my very good friends. I hope your remaining girls will bring you comfort as you grieve for Uno.

  • keri says:

    I'm so, so sorry. Here's to Uno's life; it sounds mighty well-lived.

  • wendyytb says:

    Sorry for your loss…

  • Georgia says:

    Oh I know just exactly how you feel. I'm that exact kind of person. We lost one of our four chickens late last summer (we had only just gotten them that spring) and I wasn't prepared for how upset I would be. I took it far worse than my two kids, even.

    It hurts to be such an open-hearted person sometimes, but it makes the love you give that much better. Uno was a lucky hen to have lived with you, even if only for a short time.

  • Shannon says:

    Very sorry to hear that :-(

  • Jane says:

    I'm very sorry for your lost.

  • Jen Chandler says:

    I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm the same way. Chicken, cat, dog, bird…doesn't matter. If i knew it even briefly, I'll shed tears.

  • when I had hens about 6 years ago one died because she got an egg stuck in her vent and I didn't know what to do. I felt loss and guilt. I'm sorry for your loss.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ashley: all of our animals are so dear, they all have such important lessons to teach. Uno will be missed but never forgotten.

  • Alicia says:

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Sharyl says:

    So sorry to hear about the loss of Uno. I have no doubt you gave her the best life she could have had.

  • tigress says:

    so sorry to hear this. i haven't experienced the joy of owning chickens yet but i am sure that i will fall in love with them.

    i can imagine how painful this is and i am truly sorry for the loss of uno, i am sure you made her life on earth a good one.

  • Bonner says:

    RIP, Uno. Ashley, your post was a lovely and touching eulogy. It added powerfully to something I've been thinking a lot about lately: the fact that all animals have distinct, quirky personalities, and how easy it is to forget this when they're served up as dinner with a side dish.

    I echo Nicole's sentiment that her memory will live on through your books. Few chickens are so immortalized, and if any are worthy, it sounds like she was.

    My sincere condolences,

  • I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your sweet hen…

  • Abra Cat says:

    I'm so sorry.

  • Mary Ann says:

    I'm so sorry for the loss of your Uno.

  • metasequoia says:

    Aw, I'm sorry Mama. We lost a hen the night before last as well. It's the second of our hens that the resident hawk has beheaded. It's a helpless feeling since I know this is nature & the hawk is, after all, a predator. Our children don't know yet, and I don't really want to tell them. We're down to 19 hens, and I'm hoping with the chaos of that many hens, they won't notice.

  • Catalina says:

    *hugs* I'm so sorry. :(
    I know how hard it is to lose a chicken friend – I lost 2 last year.
    It never gets easier.
    Sorry for your loss.

  • Emily says:

    Losing a pet is so hard. You care for them on a daily basis providing nourishment to them in the form of food, drink, and health care, not to mention love. Then, one day, they are gone. It seems so unfair. I'm truly sorry for your loss.