For the first time since we've lived in this house, there are no chickens in the backyard.
I keep looking back there to see what they're up to. But the straw is silent; nothing's up. We lost our last lady two nights ago.
She was strewn about the run, devoured and destroyed; there were feathers in the house, even, so that clever raccoon probably got her just after she went in at night, or just before she came out in the morning, timing his (or her, I know) kill for the moment when the door slid open at daybreak. The last of the four - no, five - barred rocks went the same way just last week. We are besieged. Or, rather, they were. Poor girls.
They were busy, and wily, and they took long, leisurely dust baths on sunny days. They served us well with eggs and food scrap elimination and fertilized mulch and, mostly, they were themselves and they liked their lives.
I don't claim any long mourning, or any deep spiritual bond. We never named them, and we likely won't name the girls who come next. But we learned from these birds - including, hopefully, how to keep the next round alive a little longer - and I saw some of them grow up wild at their mama's heels. I loved the honor they gave to my leftovers, loved their independence and their companionship. There is something so endlessly soothing about sharing your life with someone not human - a completely different way to take and use a day. I don't think I made a bit of sense to them, but we were still friends.