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Circle Of Life

GoldieGoldie arrived at our home on 20 January. A small red hen of no particular breed, she was extremely skitterish at first, especially with the monster dog around. But Blackjacks was taught to ignore chickens and only chase Hadeda’s. Eventually she decided that it was safe to sit on the little one’s hand.

The chickens were brought into the equation in an attempt to help the little one cope with Life’s Big Questions (she is slightly autistic). The ultra traumatic divorce dotted with severe passive agression and parental alienation left her drawn into her shell, a very afraid small person with a very fragile self esteem. We hoped that playing with animals would improve her self-esteem.

Little did we know how dedicated Goldie would fulfill her role.

Summer came to an end and it wasn’t a particularly cold winter. Things were in a comfortable routine. When the little one was here, she would always talk about her chickens and help me feed them and she would catch them and hold them and talk to them – amazing for a child in her situation. Considering they are free-roaming chickens this (holding them) is no small feat.

When she wasn’t here to feed the chickens they would become very bold, pecking on the kitchen door for food and attention. They claimed every corner of the garden, the rooster always on guard to peck a curios dog on the snout if he came too close. Its amazing how they can dissappear behind a piece of vegetation in a second.

GoldieAnd then, on 23 July, the gardener called me to show me Goldie’s eggs. In the corner of a small trailer, under some branches, there were 10 eggs already. We never knew what she was up to!

Of course that location was suitable to her but not to us as we needed the trailer, so we built a box quickly and relocated her eggs to the new nest – keeping our fingers crossed she would accept the new circumstances. Without a flinch she carried on her job and laid some more eggs, accepting the moving of the nest as just one of life’s things to be adjusted to.

A very cold spell with black frost prevented the eggs from hatching and besides it was her first clutch. Yet again she just went on with life preparing for her next brood.

Meanwhile we adopted a stray puppy, Liquorice, from the SPCA. Very anaemic from tick-bite fever and as thin as a rake, she had to fend for herself alone in the veld for months. I watched her catch a pigeon on the grass and she was as quick as lightning. Obviously a staple food before, and an ominous sign of what was to come.

GoldieThen early on the morning of 26 September there was a rucous by the chickens. Liquorice dug under the fence to get to the chicken box. I was too late to save Goldie but the rooster and Snowball was able to get away.

Uncertain what to do with the little one I decided to be as open as possible. Together we made a box for Goldie, we dug a grave and put the box in the hole. Afterwards she filled the grave with the soil and stacked some heavy woodchucks on top so the dogs won’t dig it up. Then she went inside and made a cross with Goldie’s name and a heart on it, finally sticking one of Goldie’s feathers on the cross.

I think an important life lesson was learnt in the most gentle way imaginable. A humble chicken came down to earth to help the little one deal with the sadness of loss. Of coming and going, of moving on with life but keeping the memories alive in your heart. The circle of life.

Thank you Goldie for sharing with us.

RIP Goldie
* 20/1/2010
+ 26/9/2010
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