Home Chickens The Bold, Brief Life of Brown Betty

The Bold, Brief Life of Brown Betty

The Bold, Brief Life of Brown Betty
Fence and feather and fond memories of a fine-feathered friend

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.brown betty and buddy

Some Hen

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.buddy brown betty path

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.buff orpington feathersThe 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.Brown Betty scoffs at my deer fence protecting my greenhouse

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.

brown betty watercolors chicken
My friends Catherine and Dana sent me this lovely homemade card in honor of Miss Brown Betty’s memory. Makes me smile, indeed.


  1. Oh, poor Brown Betty. But—you know she had a wonderful life–and better to “go” enjoying a fine day roaming, than to live a thousand years confined when you are as free a spirit as she obviously was. RIP Brown Betty.

  2. “It’s just unfortunate that most of the world likes chicken.”

    I’m still chuckling… truer words were never spoken my friend! Rest in peace Brown Betty.

  3. Love what Susan Schmitz said. To some, the risks are the reward, FREEDOM is EVERYTHING! Live free or die! What a wonderful spirit Brown Betty was!

  4. sorry for your loss. Our eagles here have never been interested in my poultry.. they stick to scanning the river for dinner .. it’s always the raccoons, hawks & opossums .. and the last go-round, which hens did the raccoons decide on for dinner but my two buff orphington pullets .. they must taste best.

  5. Oh my beautiful and free Brown Betty! Perhaps only here for a brief time but so loved as all free spirits deserve.

    Tom and Buddy thank you for being part of Brown Betty’s journey and I am sure that she is conscious of the all of the life’s miracles that you give her with your mind, heart and soul. Her love will only enrich your hearts.

    Brown Betty, eternal love is sent to you from V and the Furry Gang. ox

  6. Tom, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of Brown Betty. She is an example for us all – a short life in the sun is better than a long life in captivity. She truly was a special soul and obviously loved being close to you and Buddy, no fence could deprive her of that.

  7. I had a beloved chicken I called Lucy- when I first moved to a farm she was my constant companion. She waited for me to come home, she watched me cook on the table outside of the window and would sit on my lap. Each night she went to sit on her spot in the coop and dutifully would lay me an egg.
    One morning I went to let her out and all I saw was blood and feathers- I was shocked. Then as I left the barn I saw the fisher staring me down- as if threatening it would be back. Chickens bring such charm to the farm. Sorry about your loss. EJ @WynyatesFarm

  8. Aw…I’m SO sorry, Tom! People who don’t have animals fail to realize how much individual personality each creature has, and how attached we become to each member of our animal household. And it seems that Betty had the biggest personality in the henhouse. You’ll miss her, I know. You’ve written a lovely tribute to her, and we’re all mourning your loss.

  9. Dear Tom and Buddy, I know the daylight dimmed and noises dulled the day you lost Brown Betty. I am so sorry. A sad Bye bye, beautiful Brown Betty…..now we will all miss you, very much. I love chickens. They can love us back. Hugs to you and Buddy. Xo, Donna Romero.

  10. Thanks for sharing this sad news, it’s hard to write about loss. She was a very fortuneate “chic” to have had such a lovely home to roam, and such sweet family members to care for and about her. I can’t think of a nicer place for a chicken to live than at Tall Clover Farm.

  11. I’ve also had a hen or two that personified the New Hampshire state motto. As a flock, hens are hard to relate to, but as individuals they are easy to bond with. I have a young laying hen if you would like her. The coyotes have taken the fun out of poultry raising for me.

  12. Great post TC, she was surely as the candle that burned twice as bright for half as long 😊. Well, at least she got to enjoy a bit of this season when the Pacific Northwest is undoubtedly as beautiful as anywhere in the world…

  13. Thank you for sharing this experience about your special Brown Betty’s demise with us. She lived a good life at Tall Clover Farm….what a lucky girl.

  14. You have the gift of words….those were sad words however! Do you have potted plants in your chicken yard? I am so curious!

    Makes me grateful I built a Fort Knox for my girls…and even their run is so far protective. Like, I had chain link walls, decking type of flooring. Then for good measure, I added hardware cloth up the sides, four feet. Then, because of living on the Pacific NW coast…where winds batter us..showing no mercy, I added ANOTHER layer of the clear plastic that one uses for patio roofs, even adding it to the sides where the winds are the hardest. So far so good! They jump into their dust bath filled with sand, putter about outside until dusk…when critters like the Muskrat tend to appear, and seem to then go home to roost. I wish predators would just go someplace else!!!!!

  15. Thank you Everyone for the consoling and kind comments. Brown Betty will be missed, but your words are sweet reminders of her life well lived, and indeed on her own terms.

  16. I am so sorry, Tom, but Brown Better is being cared for by your two dear puppies in a wonderful place. Some day, you will all be reunited.

  17. I’m late to this parade of well wishes but I just had to chime in. As a chicken lover myself, who has lost a few gals to our eagle friends, I really feel your pain. Once you name something and feed it and notice it’s personality – well there’s a bond there no matter what others might think. All our best to you, Tom.
    from Karen and her girls,
    Louisa Mae, Harriet, Jane, Harper, Emily, Charlotte, and Virginia

  18. What a lovely paean to such a beautiful, talented little being—she lived that “thirty minutes of Wonderful” so precious to Shelby in STEEL MAGNOLIAS, and who can argue with that? I just happened in through looking for a “brown betty nesting hen” for the delightful “Weird and Wonderful Finds” site on FB, and was captivated by your story and charmed by your writing style and way with words. I’m going up to see if I can join, and after the holidays will enjoy returning to delve into your archives. Longtime Farm Girl, retired to a Heartland suburb which is still smalltown, despite its being encompassed entirely by BIG CITY. rachel @ LAWN TEA

    • Thank you so much Rachel for the kind words and visit. Brown Betty was something special; I love being reminded of her sassy self, and the joy and life she brought to the chicken yard and the farm. Again, thank you!


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