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Farewell, Colonel Brandon
My husband, observing several discrete piles of feathers behind our house, said, “Well, looks like something got one of our chickens.” It had been several years since a predator had made off with a chicken. Once, it was a fox. Our younger daughter thinks she saw it, boldly dashing away by daylight with a delectable hen in his jaws. Another time, we thought there was evidence that the thief had been a bear. We took action–played music near the coop, rigged bright lights that came on with movement at night–yet we could no longer feel at ease letting our chickens wander the property, an activity they seem to blissfully enjoy.
Then we got the rooster from a friend’s organic egg farm. He had been one of three males in a barn teeming with hens. He seemed a little wilted when we first brought him home. Perhaps he had stood out amongst the hundreds of ladies at the farm, not an enviable position where hens are concerned. I still thought him an attractive rooster, though. I hadn’t before seen a specimen with his white and blond coloring.
A few weeks later, I was surprised to see him transformed. He strutted the yard at the peak of health, handsome and proud. He escorted our little cluster of hens while they grazed on the property, watchful with tinges of fussiness and anxiety. And remarkably, although there were incidents with circling hawks, no prowling opportunists had nabbed the hens in years.
I studied the feather deposits, each twenty feet or so apart from each other and telling a sad story of struggle and death. I had been home all day and hadn’t heard a thing. Our chickens aren’t known for going silently into that good night. Then, as my husband was counting the hens, I realized that the feathers were blond–blond and white. “I think it was the rooster!” I called to save time. And to express some disbelief and maybe a little disappointment.
After talking with the neighbors, we’ve found out that there’s been a “black fox” that has shown interest in chickens. There’s been talk of getting a live trap. And, since it’s probably not safe to let the chickens wander, my husband will reinforce their outdoor cage to keep out predators. My thoughts are a little less practical. The rooster was named after a Sense and Sensibility character, when one of my daughters went through a Jane Austen stage. And between short lifespans and brash foxes, there won’t be any Eleanor or Marianne and for sure no Colonel Brandon to bring to mind the sweet parts from that particular chapter of our lives.
The shed in the front yard, around the corner from where Colonel Brandon met his demise. What appears to be a random circle of chicken wire keeps the hens away from the grass seed, which, as Marianne loved her Willoughby, they passionately adore.Published in