Does anyone say I’m sorry when your chicken dies?

I didn’t want to write this post. But then again, I didn’t want to write any post, especially a funny one. All I want to do is grieve for the loss of my very good friend. My chicken, Lacy.

Riot_Ranch_Lacy_Emmy

On Friday Lacy was killed in our yard by some animal. I don’t know what it was — a fox or a bobcat. All I could find was a trail of her feathers leading into the woods. I didn’t hear it happen. We were all out in the yard. All the dogs were out too. Plus all the chickens were out too — all 28 of them. Why couldn’t it have been another chicken? Why couldn’t it have been our rooster? Our rooster is an asshole and would make a perfectly lovely meal for a wild animal. Why did it have to be Lacy?

Riot_Ranch_Lacy_1

I lived with a constant fear that something like this was going to happen. I knew by letting Lacy out of the coop every day there was a risk something could happen to her.

But Lacy didn’t want to be in the coop. She wanted to be with us.

And we wanted to be with her.

Riot_Ranch_Midnight_Lacy

So I took the risk and now she’s gone.

When a person dies everyone gives you sympathy. People tiptoe quietly around and give you space and sometimes meals. There are grief counselors. There are therapists. There are support groups.

Riot_Ranch_Buck_Lacy

When your dog dies, other animal lovers give you sympathy, but really, it’s not like you can take weeks off of work to grieve. People think, It’s a dog, right?  Get over it.  Get another dog.

Riot_Ranch_Rusty_Lacy_2

When your cat dies you don’t get any sympathy at all. Maybe just an “Oh, that’s too bad. So where do you want to go to lunch?”

And when your chicken dies… well, that’s a category that defies definition. Hallmark doesn’t make a sympathy card for this one. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “Give her time. Her chicken just died.”

Riot_Ranch_August_Emmy_Lacy

But that doesn’t make the pain go away. Just because our culture has a very narrow definition of what you are allowed to grieve for doesn’t make me feel any less sad. I’ve always bonded with animals more easily than with humans. I’ve always trusted animals more than humans. An animal has never ever let me down. (I only wish I could say the same for those pesky humans.)

So when I say that Lacy was my friend, I know it sounds completely crazy. She was a chicken. But she was also my friend. Earlier on Friday Sheryl Sandberg had written about the death of her husband and as I sobbed into my pillow that night all I could think was, “Sheryl Sandberg’s husband just died and I’m crying over a chicken. This is ridiculous.”

I thought of my kids who took Lacy’s death pretty well. (What’s with the stoic farm children?) I imagined them telling a story in years to come, most likely to their therapist. I only remember my mom crying once — and it was over a chicken!  The woman was crazy!

But still, I could not harness my grief.

Here is the last picture Lacy and I took together.

Riot_Ranch_Lacy_Holly

The kids and I had just come back from a long day of grocery, errands, park, etc and I was totally exhausted. I sat down on the couch for a moment to gather myself. Lacy was sitting on a chair watching me, her head cocked to the side, thinking. Then suddenly she took flight and landed right on my lap — something she had never done before. I was so touched. We looked at each other for a moment, I stroked her downy feathers, then Lacy settled on my lap, closed her beady little chicken eyes and fell asleep.

It was wonderful.

(Please give me time. My chicken just died.)

30 Comments

  • Gina says:

    Oh my god I have THE SAME STORY!!! Her name was MY Little Friend. And I totally grieved for like a week when a bobcat attacked her and we followed a trail of her feathers through the yard where we found her maimed. Broad daylight. Everyone home. Why My Little Friend!!???she laid eggs for me every day behind my couch and liked to share my morning espresso. We should hang out and cry about our chickens holly. Nobody else understands.my not so funny, very sad story is posted on my under construction blog of a similar vein called http://www.mylittlepackofwolves,com. You should totally read it. I feel ya.

    • Holly Hester says:

      I’m soooo sorry! I TOTALLY get your pain. It’s just unfair. Thanks for the link to your blog. I’ll check it out.

  • Adelina says:

    Lacy was a beautiful chicken, no doubt! I love how you described her. I can relate to the feeling where you feel so much closer to a animals, comparing to humans. Your grief over Lacy is something I can definitely related. My pet Chickens passed away several years ago, and it still hurts. I don’t think the pain will Ever go away, as they were my babies. I love them more than anyone can relate. I hope you continue to have room for loving other chickens.

    • Holly Hester says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your chickens passing away. I totally understand. Grief over animals is just as large as grief over humans. It’s something we learn to live with. It’s not something we really ever get over.

  • Steph says:

    Ok I’m really glad I found this and I’m glad you sobbed for your pet chicken, because it would mean I’m not the only one.

    I went searching online cause I thought I was losing my marbles because for the last hour I’ve been bawling, my leghorn Nurse Ratched, just got taken by a python. She was a mean chook, but she loved only one human, and that was me. The worst of it was though that I had forgotten to close the coop door and
    She like the fearless girl she is was closest to the coop door and was the first line of defense. The other chicken that she’s bonded to has scattered and I can’t find her. I am just heartbroken and wretched over this.

    Glad I’m not the only one who got all the feels for their chicken.

  • I read the post title and thought, “oh I hope it’s not the chicken that wears diapers in the house.” I don’t often comment but I love your blog and I’m sorry about your chicken loss.
    I also believe in reincarnation, the soul’s progression in the upward trajectory on the food chain. I hope because she was a complex chicken soul that she’ll skip all kinds of of bear/deer steps and pop back into a horse or a dog or something.

    • Holly Hester says:

      Thank you so much for commenting. I wish so much that it wasn’t Lacy — and I do believe in reincarnation as well. I think you’re right. She was so advanced and also so good and sweet that she will skip a few steps and come back as something totally awesome.

  • lyn says:

    ThiS is one reason I coud never live on a farm. I would be so sad! We have 3 dogs (have had 2 more that have passed away in the last 5 yrs) & its just so hard. I’m so sorry. She seemed like a sweet girl :(

    • Holly Hester says:

      I know. You either feel just horrible when an animal days or you just decide not to connect with the animals because it’s too emotionally difficult. I choose to feel, but when something like this happens, I often question my choice. Thanks for your sympathy. I’m sorry about your doggies.

  • Marsha says:

    Holly, there are local pet loss support groups – one of my friends runs one. Google it. I grew up with a pet duck that went blind in one eye, and after we moved a raccoon got him (I think if he had been fully sighted, the raccoon would have been the loser). I was very, very sad, but when I put his name of the prayer list at the new school I was going to, they thought I was trying to be funny. That’s when I decided that that particular religion was not for me. Love is love, after all. Hope you feel better soon.

    • Holly Hester says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your duck. (Even though it was a while ago. It’s never too late to say I’m sorry.) I don’t know if I could go to a pet grief support group and cry about my chicken. It would certainly be an interesting experience. You’re right though. Love is love.

  • Suzanne Hue says:

    She was clearly a special chicken. Thinking of you sad is making me a bit teary.

  • I’m so sorry to hear about Lacy. Sending love and hugs!

  • Ginny says:

    The depth of our grief is a measure of our love. Don’t care if it’s a person, horse, dog, or chicken. I am truly, truly sorry for your loss. Hugs.

  • amy says:

    So sorry, Holly!

  • Margaret says:

    Any animal, regardless of what kind, is a member of the family. My condolences.

  • formerchickengirl says:

    I’m so sorry Holly! the same thing happened to my 2 favorite chickens too, and I cried so hard. Condolences from a fellow chicken lover :(

  • Kris C. says:

    Losing anything that is close to you is sad indeed. So sorry for your loss. I’ve never heard of such a unique chicken. Rest in peace, Lacy. (Oh my gosh…how weird is this…as I’m typing this, my 10-yr-old, oblivious to Lacy’s passing, is practicing piano and suddenly she plays “Amazing Grace!” sniff!)

  • vkkavanaugh says:

    Holly- I am so sorry for your loss. I loved to hear stories about Lacy-she seemed like an extraordinary chicken (actually, all the animals you write about seem extraordinary). There is never a good thing to say whenever a loss happens, but know that your readers will also mourn Lacy. I’m sure we all thought she was a cool chicken, and will miss hearing about her. My thoughts are with you–
    Vicki

  • Rebeccah says:

    I’m so sorry about Lacy!! You’re totally allowed to grieve for her, even if she was “just a chicken”. I used to feel that way over our cats and bunnies when I lived on a farm – they’re more than just little furry (feathered) blobs running around! If anything happened to my baby… I mean, current cat, I think I’d need a week off of work. And grief counseling. :(

    • Holly Hester says:

      I think there should be grief counseling for animal lovers. It’s so hard and you feel so alone because you don’t want to keep saying, Well, I’m still depressed over my (dog, cat, chicken, bunny).

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