Betty passed away peacefully overnight. She spent all yesterday in her comfy house, standing with her head under her wing. It rained most of the day so I sympathised with her. This morning the sun was shining. I went to put her in a sunny spot and found her at rest on the hay in the corner of her house.
One of three rescued hens, she seemed to be older than the other two and stopped laying some months ago. Her comb and tail had become smaller and she liked to settle in the sun while the others were busy around the garden.
Here are some happy memories of Betty Blue (she had a blue tag on one leg and is the lighter colour of the two brown birds).
My niece (also mourning Betty’s loss) and friend found some hens running loose on the Port Hills last winter. They managed to catch two (Betty and Dora). Popcorn came from the SPCA to make a mini-flock of three. They named the hens Satay (now Dora) and Butter (Betty). The hens came to live with me in January. We have no idea how old they are. Dora and Popcorn are still laying regularly. My niece believes Betty was hit by a car at some stage which may account for her increasing frailty. She was the lowest in the pecking order, but still did well to get her share of food and treats. Now, there is just the head hen (Popcorn) and the sentinel or lookout (Dora).
Betty’s grave is under the lilac trees. I found a suitable rock – which, now that I look at it, resembles a chicken beak down, tail up. Around it I have planted fox gloves and an azalea from my beautiful sister. Winter sweet flowers add scent to the scene.
The Hens by Elizabeth Madox Roberts
The night was coming very fast;
It reached the gate as I ran past.
The pigeons had gone to the tower of the church
And all the hens were on their perch,
Up in the barn, and I thought I heard
A piece of a little purring word.
I stopped inside, waiting and staying,
To try to hear what the hens were saying.
They were asking something, that was plain,
Asking it over and over again.
One of them moved and turned around,
Her feathers made a ruffled sound,
A ruffled sound, like a bushful of birds,
And she said her little asking words.
She pushed her head close into her wing,
But nothing answered anything.