Two of our grandsons visited us for the week, and it’s been full of fun and adventures, but there have also been some difficult lessons about life with animals.
Each grandson was allowed to select and name one of the young hens from our flock. Hill, six years old, gave his pullet the name “Hi” and his brother Braden, eight years old, chose to name his “Dear.”
Giving them names created a special connection from each boy to their little hen. The boys wanted to let his hen out in the morning, feed her treats of bananas and dried meal worms during the day, look for her free-ranging throughout the day and hold her before we locked them up in the coop for the night.
Two years ago, Braden named one of our little white roosters “Frosty.” He has had a special connection with Frosty since that day. The little rooster grew up to be our favorite. He was the tamest and smartest. The low rooster on the totem pole, he waited outside the coop every night, waiting for us to come out to put him in for the night. We opened the door to the nursery – the side of the coop reserved for new mommies and their chicks. Frosty hopped in gratefully to enjoy his peace and quiet, away from the higher ranking roosters, Sylvester and Banjo, who would chase him and attack him if he came close to the hens. He trusted us, and we adored and appreciated him and his unique personality.
A few days ago, my husband (Grandpa) noticed that Frosty wasn’t feeling right. By this morning, he was dying. We took him to the vet and had him put out to sleep.
We are so sad, and so are the boys. Braden took solace in the idea that Frosty wasn’t suffering anymore and that we’d done the right thing by our favorite little rooster.
The good news was that we saved a chicken today as well. I was out checking on Frosty in the coop when I heard a hen cackling incessantly in the courtyard. I found her beneath a lemon tree, inches away from a snake that was coiled around her eggs.
I cannot tell a rattler from a python from a garter snake. I freaked and called Grandpa, who was out with the boys, buying supplies for a lemonade stand we are doing tomorrow to raise money for our local animal shelter, Pets Lifeline. I waited and kept the hen away from the snake while the guys sped home.
Grandpa identified the snake as a good gopher snake. He picked it up just as it was trying to swallow one of the eggs. The boys (and our dog Mia) went wild with curiosity, and were eager to touch the snake and look at it up close. Grandpa let it loose out in the vineyard, and within moments, the happy and fierce little hen was back on her nest.
I write as though I’m accustomed to Mother Nature’s sublime miracles, random violence and loss, but I’m not. I mourn every death, worry more than I should and work to anticipate every danger.
It’s hard watching our kind, animal-loving young grandsons learn Mother Nature’s hard lessons, but I hope they keep loving with their hearts wide open. I hope they continue to name every chicken, even though it means their hearts may break. But sometimes, it might also mean they save a brave little hen and her eggs and they will walk inside with heroes hearts and new names for the yet to be hatched chicks swirling in their heads.