M has been away all week so it’s been up to me to get kids to school, feed animals and make sure the dead chicken is really dead before burying her.
Usually that’s a job I’m happy to leave for him. I almost called our neighbor to do it for me, but then I worried about looking like a girly girl who couldn’t hack the country life. And it’s not like I’ve never killed a chicken before. It’s just that those chickens were meant for slaughter, and were securely fastened upside down to the underside of the porch by the time I got to them with a knife. Those deaths were clean and purposeful, but this poor hen last night was just a circumstantial victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I’d discovered her in the morning after being called out by Carl the Rooster’s voice of alarm. She was sitting very still on the coop floor. No blood, no obvious injury, but she wasn’t willing to move very far. I carried her to the garage and left her there, hoping the shock would wear off and she’d greet me at the door when I got home later in the afternoon. But, no. She was still comatose at 4. But, still, maybe? She’d either die a natural death or come fully back to life?
Later, though, she was worse. By the time we’d done dinner, soccer practice, bedtime, she was on her side. But still not quite dead! Still breathing, however shallowly! Still blinking at me with an odd eye to the sky!
I considered leaving her until morning. But I’m not a knowingly cruel person. The kindest thing was to end her pain.
When you’re a little girl, you never picture yourself growing into this kind of life. You never consider the image of a middle ageish you standing over a chicken in the moonlight, a shovel raised directly over the neck, hoping hoping hoping one swoop will do the job. It didn’t. I’ll spare you details. I’m very grateful it was nighttime.
I buried the now very dead chicken and stood for a moment by her grave and thanked her for the eggs. I apologized for the messy death and the long day she must have endured before I got up the guts to do what had to be done. And then I went inside, washed my hands, gave the dogs an extra treat, and took my book to bed. M returns in two days and oh, I will welcome him. Truly, it takes some time apart to appreciate one’s rugged spouse.