Saturday, May 10, 2008

In Memory of Isabella at the Ranch

In Memory of Isabella -2008
A sweet, comical & very special hen
taken by coyotes-but will not be forgotten

For the past almost year, I've had the honor of seeing how chickens really live while free-ranging our almost three acres (plus a bit of the neighboring properties!). Isabella and Sophia were never more than a few feet apart from one another except when one of them was laying an egg. Although the bigger and sterner appearing of the two, Isabella was actually not that tough- she always had a fit when Sophia was laying an egg and she couldn't see her- would stand outside the coop or under a tree and squawk her heart out. Sophia would call back from her position on the nesting box, giving what seemed to be reassuring coos. The pair went everywhere together and definitely had a routine. Up at sunrise, they would first rush to investigate whatever I'd put out for breakfast (they'd become pretty spoiled toward the end here) and then begin their little pathways around the property. Dust baths were a big thing- always near the barn in the afternoon after laying their eggs. And let me tell you, I have a deep appreciation for the egg-layers of the world now- having stood outside the coop listening to the process. It is a long daily endurance to produce a pretty amazing product. "The girls" would look out for one another, sounding a loud clicking noise if Boulder or one of the dogs got too close. My favorite part of the day was saying good night to them both, thanking them for the eggs and then securing the coop...then I'd hear them "talk" back and forth to one another, as if discussing the day. Although I was fully aware of the risks of allowing chickens to free range, I'd somehow thought my girls would be safe- but I'm still convinced that this time they've had together to explore the world, danger and all, is far better than keeping them cooped up. It also makes me realize more than ever how horrific it is that millions of laying hens just like Isabella are kept confined in cages where they can barely move an inch for their entire lives. This has got to stop. They are intelligent, social and sensitive beings and I am very happy to have been a part of Isabella's life for the time that we had!!! God speed, Isabella. We love you!