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Houdina/Sweetie (c. February 2011 – September 12, 2011)

September 13, 2011

Yesterday was hectic, starting with a doctor’s appointment on the mainland in

the morning, followed by a slew of errands and the procurement of more building

supplies.  I had let the hens out of the coop just before I left to catch the 8 a.m.

ferry.

 

I returned home mid-afternoon, wrote yesterday’s post, then snuggled up to the

TV to watch some baseball and football.  I immediately heard clucking outside.

“Houdina escaped again,” I thought, so I went outside to collect her.  However, it

was Brenda and Sally instead.

 

I put one under each arm, keeping our dog Slinkee at bay.  She is still fascinated by

the hens but has yet to learn how to properly interact with them.  I took them back 

to the garden, making Slinkee stay outside.  By the time I opened the coop, she had

chewed through the netting of the run and come into the other end.

 

I shooed her out, released Brenda and Sally, and counted my chickens, so to speak.

Ma was in the nesting box as usual, and two of the other quadruplets came in to see

what was going on.

 

[Editor’s note: Jude and I can identify Brenda and Sally by their markings, but the

other four are so identical that we could only identify them by their behaviours:

Ma by her agoraphobic and/or antisocial attitude, Houdina by her constant escapes

and escape attempts, Sweetie by her friendliness, and Juveli — like her namesake — 

for her maverick ways.]

 

Anyhoo, I found the sixth hen dead outside in the run, ensnared and strangled by

the netting of the garden.  She was trying to get to the limitless bounty inside.  I

assumed it was Houdina because she had gotten in several times.

 

I quickly put Slinkee in the cab of the truck parked nearby and shut the other girls

in the coop.  While repairing the hole the dog had chewed, I discovered that Sally

and Brenda had tunneled out just a foot or so away.  I fixed that, too.

 

Jude was due home soon, so I waited for her in the swing under the huge maple

tree, the most serene spot on the farm.  As soon as she got out of the car, I told her

that Houdina was dead and took her to the body, which I left in place after I cut

her out of the netting.  A small egg was beside her.  Apparently it came out as she

struggled.

 

“That’s not Houdina,” Jude said, “that’s Sweetie.”  Sweetie was Jude’s favourite.

 

And then we figured it out.  The mysterious, adventuresome Houdina was also the

cuddly, lovable Sweetie.  She was leading a double life, which would be particularly

challenging for a chicken, I would think. 

 

We knew this day would come, but we had no disposal protocol in place yet.  So we

decided to bury her where no predator could dig her up, under a fence post.  We’re

expanding the garden anyway, so we dug a post hole extra deep and dropped dear

Houdina/Sweetie in beak first.

 

I thought Jude, as a former Catholic, would know some proper words, but she

was overcome with grief, I guess.  As a lapsed Methodist who went straight to

agnosticism without dabbling with Unitarianism, all I could think of was a scene

from the classic black comedy, “The Loved One”. 

 

Robert Morse was conducting a funeral at The Happy Hunting Grounds Pet Ceme-

tery for a patron who wanted his dearly deceased bird shot into space.  As Morse

warily watched the small rocket-coffin spark, he said “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,

air to air.”

 

So that’s what I said as I dropped the fence post on Houdina/Sweetie’s ingloriously

upturned bum and legs.  I tried to fight off the image from another film, that of the

foot sticking out of the wood chipper at the end of “Fargo”, but simply couldn’t.

 

Jude and I still don’t know how we’ll dispose of those hens who follow H/S to the

Big Garden with Copious Bugs and No Dogs, but we’re going to honour her as the

first with a windsock on the fence post.

 

 

P.S.  We decided to retire the names “Houdina” and “Sweetie” and name the newly

unnamed hen “Hudi”, from the list of contest winners, since it’s sort of a mash-up

of the two names.  I realize that this jumps the queue, but all decisions of the judge

are final.                      

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12 Comments
  1. wade permalink
    September 13, 2011 12:31 pm

    as an unemployed worker who is close to the point of wondering where the next meal will come from, and having grown up in a rural village, i would have put the pot with water on to boil so i could have cleaned the bird & then either baked or fried that lovely chicken….and then, if one wanted some religious mumbo-jumbo said, “good god, good grub, let’s eat!”

    • September 14, 2011 2:22 pm

      Sorry, Bro. Once you name them, you can’t eat them.

  2. September 13, 2011 4:19 pm

    Thank God Juveli survived! I think you should let Juveli move into the house and make the dog go outside!

    • September 14, 2011 2:24 pm

      Juveli would be unhappy in the house away from her peeps, but Slinkee would love to live in the coop.

  3. Charlotte Wales permalink
    September 13, 2011 8:07 pm

    Rest well, Dear Hudina/Sweetie – many delicious bugs await you!

    • September 14, 2011 2:25 pm

      And juicy worms. Thank you for your condolences, Charlotte.

  4. September 13, 2011 8:08 pm

    Yeah, and you wouldn’t want Juveli to be lonely, so you could let Dang in with her!

    • September 14, 2011 2:32 pm

      Jude and I haven’t talked about having more hens yet. We’re still in our mourning period, although that may be about over because we had baked chicken for supper last night. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t anyone we knew.) When we do, we’ll get at least two, so Dang will be in along with Princess Layer.

  5. Chris permalink
    September 14, 2011 10:34 pm

    As a disposal method of defunct chickens, I can heartily recommend chicken-salad sandwiches, fried or BBQ’ed hens, etc. That’s what the little critters are for. Al Capp invented Schmoos, who lived only to be eaten. Think of these feathery friends as schmoos, who have at last attained their desired and intended goal!

    • September 15, 2011 6:40 am

      I love eating sweets, but I couldn’t eat Sweetie.

  6. September 16, 2011 9:09 am

    Frédéric Back is a vegetarian and animal rights activist. He often says : “Animal are my friends and I do not eat my friends.”

    I know you and Jude aren’t vegetarians, and I’m only a vegetarian wanna-be, but I like this man’s sentiment.

    • September 16, 2011 9:53 am

      We are slouching toward it. There may come a day when the eggs are the only animal product we eat. For some reason, Back’s quote reminded me of a Woody Allen comment. He said, and I paraprase, that he had a friend who could take or leave reality, but he knew it was the only place he could get a good steak.

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