Jo Bar­low

JO BAR­LOW re­flects on love and loss

Your Chickens - - Front Page -

Roll on spring!

Ithink it is safe to say that I love my girls. They are my fam­ily - ev­ery day they make me laugh with their an­tics, es­capades and gen­eral chicken-ness and most of my life (OK then … all of it) is cen­tred around them. But all this love and hap­pi­ness has a down side. When your girls pass away it leaves a gap­ing great hole in your heart that is very hard to mend, if in fact it ever does. Re­cently, two of our el­dest res­i­dents, the lovely Laven­der and the gor­geous Greta (both of whom have of­ten fea­tured in this col­umn), passed away within a cou­ple of weeks of each other; Laven­der af­ter a lengthy ill­ness, Greta very sud­denly in her sleep. Both losses were equally dis­tress­ing for us hu­mans, as well as for poor Flora who lost her two wing­men (or women). When you spend so much time with an­other crea­ture, be that hen, hu­man, or any other an­i­mal, their loss feels all the more painful as it af­fects ev­ery as­pect of your day-to-day life and you start to think that you re­ally can’t do it any­more.

A TONIC

And then some­thing un­ex­pected hap­pens to lift your spir­its, let­ting the warm sun­shine of spring back into your days and mak­ing you re­alise that ev­ery day you give th­ese girls as a free hen is a good day. And this time, un­usu­ally, my re­minder came in hu­man and not hen form!

Re­cently we had some very spe­cial visi­tors come to meet the girls; three-year-old Ember and her baby sis­ter Lyra. Ember, who had been very keen to meet the girls for the first time, came armed with her back­pack, her note­book and a smile to match the Cor­nish sun­shine. Cud­dling a hen for the first time is a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence for an adult, but dou­bly so for a child. Due to size con­straints it was eas­ier for Ember to hold a ban­tam rather than a hoof­ing great ex-bat and Iona Ban­tam hap­pily per­formed cud­dling du­ties, to­tally be­witch­ing Ember in the process. Af­ter we had de­light­edly hand fed the girls corn, we went to see if there were any eggs in the nest box (I had re­mem­bered to check ear­lier – phew!). For Ember it was some­thing quite mar­vel­lous. The two pre­cious eggs were very care­fully and lov­ingly packed into an egg box, car­ried home with great rev­er­ence and formed the cen­tre­piece of sup­per that evening.

Ember is now keen to visit again and, I hope, has caught the chicken lov­ing bug, learn­ing along the way about an­i­mal wel­fare and where your food comes from – all clev­erly dis­guised as a chicken cud­dle.

I think it is very easy when you see your girls ev­ery day, to lapse into tak­ing their brilliance and amaz­ing­ness for granted, but see­ing them through fresh eyes, es­pe­cially those of a very ex­cited three-year-old at the start of her hen-keep­ing jour­ney, makes you re­alise just how lucky we hen­keep­ers are to be able to share our lives with th­ese girls.

And that makes all those sad, dark times bear­able. Al­most.

NOTE: Jo Bar­low’s ar­ti­cle was writ­ten be­fore the re­cent bird flu re­stric­tions were an­nounced.

ABOVE: Ember and chick­ens

BE­LOW: Ember en­joys an egg

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