This morning, when I danced bare-toed in my Birkenstocks through the blistering cold of the frosted grass to I let the chickens out of their coop, my friendly flock greeted me with sad news.
Sometime during the long hours between daybreak and dark the flighty little soul of True Blue, one of the most popular of the Original Girls and a Top Hen in the pecking order of the flock, took her last flight and broke free from her mortal, feathered chains. .
I had noticed that True’s molting was particularly rough and her raven black feathers took twice as long as the other hens’ to fully regrow. She ran around the yard looking like she’d been out partying till the wee hours, rode hard and put back sopping wet. Even with extra tasty organic morsels, mealworms and apple cider vinegar-laced water her once magnificent blue-black feathers never regained their former glory.
So when I opened the coop door this morning and the Popular Girls scurried past me, clucking and gossiping their way to the feeding pallet I immediately noticed that True Blue wasn’t part of the first served-In Crowd.
I waited for the rest of the flock- the other Original Girls with lower rank, like poor hen-pecked Eyebrows and The Hen, followed by the four younger birds who just hatched this spring and have no rank at all.
Once the coop was empty I stepped inside, letting my eyes adjust to the gloomy room before scanning the roosts and the feather-littered floor for any sign of True Blue. I finally found her cold, stiff body in the nesting box nearest the floor.
I crouched down and gently lifted her nearly weightless body from the nest, and then spied something shining in the nest.
I leaned closer, straining my eyes in the dim light and reached out to grasp True Blue’s last earthly egg, a beautiful, true blue color that literally shone like a jewel in the shadowy, empty coop.
I carried True Blue’s body and her lovely last egg out into the morning sunshine, and as I stepped from the dark coop into the light of day I felt a flutter and a cold breeze fly past my shoulder. Perhaps it was True Blue’s soul, lingering near her body and then following, flying, out the door, into the beyond.