We called her as we saw her and so her name, the name we gave her, was Big Girl. And she was. Big. At least in comparison to the Prissies, the first 16 chickens to live on The Quarry Farm. Big, too, in that she eventually made this place her own.
She came to us through Nature’s Nursery, but our understanding of her life started in a depressed and battered neighborhood near downtown Toledo. A gang of kids was harassing her with sticks and stones and fists and feet until a man we never met, never heard more about than to know the part he played in Big Girl’s life, stepped out of his house and drove them off. He called the people we know, who called us and here she came.
Not surprisingly, she was suspicious of us; kept her distance. Literally. She maintained a space of roughly 30 feet between her and any human being in the yard. If you took a step toward her, she took a step away. As evenings would wear on, we’d have to wait until full dark, then go out and find where she’d perched for the night, catch her up and put her in the coop, safe from every big and little thing that goes bump in the night.
And so it went, until one day it didn’t. It wasn’t a gradual acceptance, but an all-in sort of thing. One day she was meticulously guarding her personal space and the next she was standing on my foot, looking up at me and wanting food. It took about three months, but she’d finally made up her mind.
That was in 2009. Yesterday, she crossed the water. She’d been fading for months and when we opened the coop door in the morning, we knew. She eased herself out into the sun and, after a bit, lay down. She stayed there for the remainder of the day with the three of us checking on her every little bit. Then, with afternoon slipping into evening, she simply went with it, followed the westering sun.
I suspect I’ll always look for her, perched in the crabapple tree or up in a pine, bullying one hen or another out of her way as they all race to the coop for a treat. And in some sense, I’ll always find her.
This is home, hers and ours, in spirit or in flesh, and that much more solidly established for her having made it so.