"It was my favorite chicken!"

I've heard those words over and over after the various ways in which various chickens of ours have crossed the rainbow bridge into chicken Valhalla. It's always the favorite one. We've had rounds of chickens--largely a sequence of increasingly inbred miniature ones (this was not the plan) and currently a flock of six full-sized ones that look freaking huge in comparison.

Every now and then a hawk gets one, or a fisher cat, or one just drops dead for no apparent reason. We've had chicks, and enjoyed their adorable fluffiness--but inevitably, only about 2/3 of those born survive. There's nothing sadder than a dead little chick lying in the dirt.

And so I've had to explain to my kids that, as evidenced by chickendom, life is a sequence of Joy and Death. Joy, Death, Joy, Death. If you're lucky, you get more joy than death. Regardless, this is normal.

There was the wonderful spirit that was Dmitri, the bantam rooster, who would attack my ankle every time I turned my back to him--Missing In Action, and sweet Artie, who loved posing for the camera--dead in a fire. There was Isis, who gave birth to practically everybody and was taken by a hawk, and Peep who did his mom and made more chickens, then got gang-raped by ducks and perished from a non-related disease. Then there was No-Neck, who I had to put out of her misery with a pointy shovel less than five minutes after eating Kentucky Fried Chicken when a small hawk decided to partially eat her alive.

Life can be gruesome.

But we still love our chickens.

It's bizarre sometimes being so present to the cycle of life and death, to see it enacted so frequently. I can't tell you how many times my youngest has seen me march by him in the kitchen with a shovel. It makes me a little sad that he doesn't ask any more.

Anyways-- the only proper way to deal is to say, in life, what we say to them upon death: "May you be blessed on your journey."

May you be blessed on your journey.