It was a long time coming.
Still, I never actually thought the day would arrive that we would say good bye to our beloved old gals… our little clutch of hens.
They weren't farm animals or anything resembling "poultry" to us. They were pets, friends even. My boys toted them around the yard, sang to them, whispered to them, loved them.
But slowly, we began coming to an unwelcome conclusion… our home may not have been the best choice for them.
Much as we loved them, they were never really meant to live here. When we bought them it was with the idea that we would raise them for three months or so and then they would free range on my brother's acres. The three months came and for a number of reasons my brother's place wasn't going to work out for them.
Add to that the fact that we had fallen head over heels for our fluffy gals, and we decided, perhaps unwisely, to keep them.
We've been through so much together though…
And then another.
Our girls have been swung on swing sets and sent flapping down slides. They have been invited to picnics, granted honorary membership into the club.
They have graciously recycled our leftovers into eggs and they have helped keep the fire ants at bay. They have taught us so much about who we are and who we hope to be.
But now, we're quite literally empty nesters.
It was a handful of things that we tried long and hard to ignore… our yard is not exactly what anyone would deem secure. We had a terrible incident a while back in which a neighborhood dog loped into our yard and took one of our girls right in front of my kids. It was so awful.
And so we kept them in their pen… which stays rather damp and icky in our shady yard. They didn't care for this and made a LOT of noise about it. Our neighbors never complained, but it strikes you that you aren't making too many friends when your pets are heralding the rising of the sun each morning…. and then they keep at it for much of the day. I couldn't say I blamed them though. I wouldn't want to be cooped up in a dark and smelly place either.
As I said, we ignored all this long and hard though because we didn't want to let them go. Every time I would so much as THINK about finding a new home for the chickens my boys would burst into tears and so I would quickly let go of that thought.
And then one afternoon we visited a nursery very near to our house. We'd never been there before and were struck at once by how homey and lovely it is, how kind its owners AND…. how ingenious their pest control measures… a handful of hens, a few baby chicks and a couple of roosters patrol the grounds, pecking at bugs and clucking at patrons.
We huddled up, fought back some tears, and decided to ask if the nursery owners would ever consider adding to their population. They were more than willing and it was so clear that this would make the perfect home for our girls… space to run, friends, the potential for babies, and close by so that we could visit any time. We decided to go home and give ourselves a couple of days to think it over.
In that time the girls taught us one last lesson, a hard one, but one that will be invaluable to my men wherever the road takes them… love is selfless. You can't hold onto your girl, no matter how much love her, if it's just not meant to be. If you love someone, you have to be willing to do what's best for them, even if it means letting go.
My men came to this conclusion on their own, and I could not be more proud of them for making such a hard decision.
We took some last photos with our ladies, cried a few tears and loaded them into a laundry hamper to deliver them to their new home.
When we arrived the whole staff stopped what they were doing and came to coo over our girls. The owner, a big tough caballero with Marlboro Reds in his pocket, took down their names and breeds in a notebook and then whispered to them in spanish as though they were the prettiest ladies at the ball.
He sent my men home with a plant each and promises that they could come any time, everyday if they like, and that he will take good care of their babies.
We have been back several times now and are happy to report that our girls do seem so very happy. We're proud of them, proud of us, and much as I feel like such a failure.. one of "THOSE" parents who gets their kids easter chicks and then has to find a new home when she can't take proper care of them… I'm not sorry that we had this experience. Tender as we are feeling, heartbroken as we are, we have such great memories and learned so very much from those silly feathered friends of ours.
I guess in some ways we feel like our big girls have gone off to college… they've grown up and flown the coop. They're making new friends, living a new life. They might even find love, settle down and have babies of their own. And that's just as it should be.