One of our chickens died during the night. She went to roost early the evening before, well before the rest of our tiny flock, and then this morning my husband found her flat on the floor of the coop, as if she’d fallen off the perch in the hours before dawn.
Our chickens look identical to us. Since we can’t tell them apart, we didn’t name them, so our deceased chicken had no name. I am sad about her death because it means fewer eggs and it causes concern for the health of her sisters. (If the other hens even notice her absence, I can’t tell.)
But she is not unmourned. My husband is sad. His little flock is diminished. One less chicken for him to watch in the evenings. One less beady-eyed chicken waits and watches for him to open the door of the pen. One less chicken runs out squawking.
On the wide expanse of green grass and weeds that is our backyard, the hens are the free roaming creatures they were meant to be, if only inside a fenced yard for that hour before twilight. They scurry around and scratch for worms. They squabble over bugs. They flap their wings and briefly lift off the ground. My husband’s pleasure in freeing his chickens and watching them being chickens is reduced by twenty-five percent.
We won’t be getting a replacement hen. A flock has it’s own rules and doesn’t take well to newcomers. And the remaining chickens may be contagious with whatever killed their sister. Plus, a new hen may introduce a new sickness. (Yes, I know there are ways to work around these problems, but we will just let this play out.)
Three healthy hens can supply more eggs than we use. But three hens are not a sure source of eggs to barter.
Does God, the Universe, or Everything care about our chicken’s death?
Today is the the day the World calls Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who fell in battle, who died. Yet even as we set out flags and decorate graves, soldiers continue to fall in battle, civilians die in bombings, refugees drown as they flee. Does God/the Universe/Everything care?
Perhaps S/he/It/They takes the long view. A chicken dies; the flock carries on: a tree dies; the forest still stands ; a city is smoking rubble; other cities thrive: a child dies; other children live on. The individual expires but Nature persists.
We humans mourn the peach trees we walked among, scraped from the earth by a bulldozer’s blade. We mourn the childhood friend, dead in uniform beside a far away river. We mourn the child we loved, taken by cancer.
We can be sad about a chicken.