Sad news is a truth I’m wary of sharing, but my plucky hen Brown Betty deserves her day in the sun, and unfortunately a day in the sun is what did her in. As you may recall, the craftiest bird on the block, is, well was, my buff orpington, Brown Betty. A comely specimen of remarkable moxie, if a chicken can possess such a thing, Brown Betty was the Harriet Houdini of barnyard escape artists. It was not uncommon for me to put her back in the well-protected chicken yard three to four times a day. And somehow, some way, she would escape within mere minutes, but never when I was watching. She kept her escape portal(s) secret to me and apparently her fellow sister wives.
With an insatiable appetite for freedom and foraging, Brown Betty was constantly underfoot, ubiquitous as a barnyard pal can be, just shy of joining me for dinner. I’d turn and she’d be there, so close I’d have to step over her. Buddy even walked around her because she stood her ground. She could scratch up a worm, grub or seed like no one’s business, and then stare you down for a crouton chaser. My flower beds had no chance of full bloom with Brown Betty around.
At dusk the other day, when I returned home, I went to close up the coop, but no Brown Betty. She always made it back to the coop to roost, where she’d likely regale the girls with tales of the outside, and what they were missing. I looked in the greenhouse, no Brown Betty. I perused the rafters of the barn, no Miss B. I scanned the dust-bath divots under the blackberries, no buff maiden.
As I walked back to the house scratching my head as to where she could be, a blanket of feathers revealed the sad reality. Brown Betty had spent her last day free, but at a cost. I don’t need to share the specifics of what I saw, but I did search some chicken forums to determine what did her in. You see, predators have very specific styles of slaughter and consumption, and in this case all quills pointed to a bird of prey. I suspect Brown Betty didn’t know what hit her, which is something to be grateful for. Miss Betty spread her wings and saw the world; it’s just unfortunate that most of the world likes chicken.The next day I was taking a break on the hammock when a low flying (and I mean rooftop level) B-52-of-bird glided overhead as quiet as a whisper. The bald eagle maintained low altitude on its surveillance mission, heading west to the henhouse. All the chickens were in the confines of the netted chicken yard, so all were safe, silent and now hidden. A shadow that large does not portend well for small barnyard critters, as Brown Betty would have attested.
The eagle banked toward the sun and disappeared in its light, seemingly nonplussed by the absence of an easy dinner. I said, “That’s right, no drumsticks on the menu today. Move along, nothing to see here.” The chicken yard came back to life, but my good spirits were reticent to reappear. The loss of anything or anyone we like or love no matter how big or small, or minor or major takes time to heal. Some may think she was just a chicken, but I know better; she was Brown Betty, charmer of my chicken yard.
Buddy and I will miss you, Brown Betty. May you rest in peace in a place where raptors are friends and grain is scattered freely. You were one fine, plucky gal.