Bye Bye Birdies

by Stefani on 9-June-2009

Bye Bye Birdies

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.

Neighboring Tribe

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. 

Girls and Boys in the Grass

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've Come for the Roosters

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. 

Our First Egg

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Learn about the (not so) lowly seaweed with us at the Magnifying Glass today and listen in as we get to know the amazing and talented Kopp family over at the Ranch
Myrnie June 9, 2009 at 8:02 am

Oh, beautiful and so sad for your little ones. We’ve been considering chickens, but I know now isn’t the time (I have enough to handle taking care of diapers, I shouldn’t add a coop to the mix) but someday…

thanks for showing us both sides, the coming and the going!

heather jane June 9, 2009 at 8:09 am

Just so you know…your hen stories have led me to start researching for a flock of my own. I think it’s great that you were willing to let them move on to greener pastures! I will miss your funny chicken stories…remember the book title I suggested a long while back? I don’t but I know it was something about chickens and the soul. You’ve all been blessed by those little ladies, but we have too.

I’m glad they were around.

Sherry (rovinggirlnotes) June 9, 2009 at 8:29 am

lovely post.
:O) sherry

Sarah June 9, 2009 at 8:36 am

I remember when you first brought them home and have enjoyed every story about them since. Glad the boys came to this hard conclusion. 🙂

Mama Urchin June 9, 2009 at 8:42 am

Don’t you think that your boys are learning a lesson too that even adults sometimes have to change their minds to make things right. that it isn’t always good to just keep pushing through no matter what. You’re raising some fine men there Stef.

Nancy June 9, 2009 at 8:51 am

It must have been so hard letting go. How wonderful that they found a home where the kids can visit them. Don’t be so hard on yourself about taking the chickens in and giving them away–I’m sure they received a lot of love.

I had an Easter chick when I was 4 (our preschool sprung them on the parents–hard to imagine that happening nowadays) and I had a lot of fun running in the yard with her. We had to give her up before a long-distance move, but I still have the sweet memories.

Christy June 9, 2009 at 8:56 am

Sigh! What a beautiful post about your men and their ladies. Heart wrenching, of course, but it sounds like the right choice for the ladies. Thanks for sharing.

Diane June 9, 2009 at 8:59 am

Waaaaaah! So sorry, but well done, good lessons.

Come visit! We got 53 chicks in the mail yesterday… (sadly, we lost FOUR already yesterday but I think it’s all all right now…)

Patty T June 9, 2009 at 9:28 am

Oh! I’m tearing up! I wished you guys lived closer to me. I’d have taken them and let you visit anytime! What a hard yet wonderful experience for your boys. I love the part about the man whispering to them in Spanish and writing down their breeds. What a nice way for him to make your boys feel like their girls are at a great home.

molly June 9, 2009 at 10:06 am

what a sweet and sad post – and now i’ve got sting singing in my head. “if you love somebody, set them free – free, free, set them free”. i have a feeling your girls are going to love their new home.

i’m going to visit diane now and find out about her 53, make that 49, chicks!

Kelly June 9, 2009 at 10:11 am

What a wonderful post. I’m so sad they had to leave your house but happy that you found a great solution.

mommycoddle June 9, 2009 at 1:04 pm

oh stef. such a hard, good decision.

what a wonderful story.

Tracy June 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm

*sniff* that made me cry.

You guys learned so much from them, and it was such a good thing for all of you. And you did the right thing. So hard, but such a good decision.

Andrea June 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Oh, I am so sorry that you had to let them go. But I am so glad you found such a good solution. We have chickens, too but we live on 7 acres so it is no issue. I think we have the same kinds as you – Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas and Leghorns (although ours are Danish brown ones, not white).

Beautiful post.

Deanna June 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm

This is so lovely. Thank you for your grace in sharing it.

We have been wanting to have chickens. We went on the Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour (seriously, what other city! Here’s a photo group, for the curious: http://deannam.blogspot.com/2009/04/no-no-thank-you-for-keeping-it-funky.html). It seems like people did so well in their small yards, but now I’m wondering. Thanks for sharing the other side.

Carri Lambert June 9, 2009 at 4:11 pm

What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing this.

Cassandra June 9, 2009 at 4:18 pm

How heart wrenching. Your family has given me a whole new love for chickens. I’m so glad, though, that they went to a good home, and one where you can visit!

gonzomama June 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm

this brought tears to my eyes. i have enjoyed following you all and your chicken experiences. sad to see them go, but you have all obviously made a smart, but difficult decision. thank you for sharing this.

Erin June 9, 2009 at 5:15 pm

i know that had to be really hard for you all. but it sounds like it was the best decision for every living creature involved. i’m proud of you and your men.

emily June 9, 2009 at 5:18 pm

the sweetest, as usual. (but what will you do now for eggs!?)

Valarie Budayr June 9, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Ok…..we’re sad…..I know I know. We read the story and the reasons and the boys have made the right decision but we have always felt that special connections because of the girls and the photos you shared for the happy chicken egg story. Good bye Gals. May you be happy wherever you roam .

Jessica Klabough June 9, 2009 at 5:58 pm

well — for goodness sake — aren’t you raising some tender young men? what a heartwarming tale of love… and loss… and hope. happy new home, lovely ladies and to you, blue yonder boys, you have wide and open hearts.

Gretchen Skovron June 9, 2009 at 6:49 pm

wonderful post. I love the lesson on love being taught…amazing, truly.

annamaren June 9, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Oh, I am so sad for your boys, but what a beautiful life lesson this has been!
We too had urban chickens, they were taken by possums and ended up being a life lesson about love and farewell. I am glad that yours are in a place where you can visit!

melissa June 9, 2009 at 8:00 pm

I’m sorry you had to let your girls go. As much as I miss having chickens and loved my chickens, we’re not in a place, location-wise, or at the time in our lives, where we could do it again. I’m glad you found a good home for them. The people I gave my girls to when we left the country let the foxes get them. Your nursery sounds so much better. xo

Dawn Suzette June 9, 2009 at 8:28 pm

So hard but such a wonderful lesson in love…

Anne June 9, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Aw, I’m crying now.
You have taught them a lot with this experience and I’m glad you found a home close by.
I’m going to miss them too.

Greta June 9, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I love this post. It is sweet and dear and beautiful. It made me cry. Thank you so much for sharing. You have a way with words.

Sally June 10, 2009 at 6:19 am

I’m so sorry – but quite understand. We recently gave our gals away. We live in a inner city terrace and with winter and the rain it became clear that they needed somewhere different to live. My boys had some wonderful months with them and I still miss coming home and finding them at the door…perhaps at another house at another time..
Eggs will always seem special.

jamie June 10, 2009 at 7:41 am

I’m totally crying right now! We love our chickens, but we have lost oh so many to who knows what…hawks, raccoons, dogs? It’s such a hard lesson to learn. Tell your boys they should be proud of themselves for making such a selfless decision!

Elissa June 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm

well, yes, bawling again. and, no, you shouldn’t regret this experience or feel like ANY sort of failure. no matter that it is about chickens, it is such a poignant reminder about what really loving anyone is about.

sue June 10, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Wow. So touching. Thanks for sharing this, Stefani.

SpiderWomanKnits June 10, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Just a month ago our neighbor brought their dog over and she attacked one of our hens in front of the kids. It was a NIGHTMARE! I ran around like mad (9 months pregnant)and finally got the dog off the hen who thankfully got away with a few scratches. The next morning I went into labor and had my baby! Seriously. The stress of it all, I am sure it got my labor going. It’s awful, so I can completely relate to your horror.

I am so sorry you had to give up your girls but it sounds like your guys made the right decision for them. Doesn’t make it easy though. ooxx

Relyn June 10, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Oh, I’m gonna miss those girls. I sure am.

If you knew how much I did not like chicken – before the Blue Yonder Gang – you would be amazed. Those chickens, and those wonderful little guys of yours have taught us all.

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Well, caring for any kind of living breathing critter does add to the workload, but even considering all the ups and downs I would not hesitate to recommend chickens. We have loved them so dearly and cherished our time with them.

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Thank you so much for that Heather Jane. It means more than you can know to my men to know that our gals were loved far and wide!

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Oh! Oh bless you for that!
No, I had not considered that. Mostly I’ve been feeling like a wretched example… taking on something that I clearly didn’t think through as well as I should have and living to bear the consequences – and worse, watching my boys have to endure the sadness of letting go.

But now that you put it like that, yes, yes I do think that it is always a good thing for kids to see and know that grownups are human, and fallible. I guess it’s more important that they watch us navigate rough waters than it is for them to only ever have smooth sailing.
Thank you so much, friend!

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Thank you so much, Nancy. I really do hope they carry all those chicken memories with them. There’s just something inexplicably wonderful about holding a winged thing to your chest and calling it “friend.”

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:38 pm

53? My chicken man would have only one question… why not make it an even 60?

Seriously, I’m still counting on that arranged marriage.. in part because my Lu could not ask for a better set of in-laws (chickens! plants! fiddle music, civil war reinactments and burning orange metal!) and in part because we recently read that your average summer temps are around about 70. Is that for real? Really? It sounds like a made up fairyland!

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Oh it was so neat, Patty… the way he loved on them right away. He clearly understood that these were no ordinary chickens 🙂 It was so neat to see a big burly, strapping cowboy go all soft over chickens and the little boys who love them.

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Girl you’re singing my song!
Reason #476 that I know I’m a dorky mom? I actually played that song for them in effort to explain that what they were feeling is universally understood… valid and real and true.
I played Sting to help my kids learn a life lesson. For real.
Never saw that one coming. 🙂

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Thanks hon. I know you get it… that deep and abiding love for those silly feathered critters. How do they make you love them so much without ever saying a word?

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Oh we did.
You know it’s one of those things… I’m glad I didn’t know how much work and how many things we would endure and witness and work our way through because I might not have done it, and in the end I’m so glad that we did. Who knew that a handful of chickens would teach us so much about life and ourselves?

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Oh! We are jealous of the acres AND the chickens!
One fine day, in this life or the next we will have our acres and all the chickens we can love up!

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:46 pm

You know Deanna, I would really still encourage you to give chicken farming a go. I don’t regret one minute of our time with them.
But, yes, I think it’s important to know that they are real live animals and that means poop and predators and noise and unexpected who knows whats.

But still… they really do make such amazing pets. I mean honestly, what other pet turns your table scraps into more food?

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Oh that has been the million dollar question around here! For a while we could not bring ourselves to use the last eggs we had from our gals.
Then, we made the decision to put all 12 in an egg casserole and have a celebration dinner for them and their new home – new friends and new possibilities.

We felt really good about it, but it was hard and so sad to buy eggs at the store the next day. A carton of 12 brown eggs, when were so used to seeing a happy mix of blue and white and brown.

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:52 pm

That last chicken, the one who fell to the dog that got in our yard, she was was the deciding factor. When the boys learned that our girls could roam AND have the protection of a few roosters… well they had learned form experience that it is far easier to say goodbye to a friend moving on than it is to say farewell to a friend who has died.
It is a real blessing to see first hand that they have gone on to better things!

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Oh no!
I’m so sorry to hear that!

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Amen to that. We’ll never look at eggs the same way.
And I’m with you… one day, maybe we’ll have the pleasure of chicken friends again.

Stefani June 10, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Oh goodness!!! What an experience for you!
Yes, It really was so awful. I just cringe and go all teary thinking of it. I know the dog was only doing what his nature and instincts have taught him to do, but for my boys…
Well it was very hard for all of us to get over it. The whole incident took on this huge ominous significance for me… all about our little bubble of trust and comfort being pierced. It took a lot of reminding myself that it was not a sign or any kind of omen, it was just life.
Oh but it is SO hard to face such a raw slice of life when you are 4 or 6 or 8… or 33!

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