Vegas the Showgirl came home to our muddy valley in the spring of 2013. Midnight black, with a svelte naked neck, a neat round figure, a jaunty hairdoo and a sparkle in her eye, she was hatched on a farm up island, that my friend, after our trip there, dubbed Chicken Africa.
My friend had spent time on the African continent (and has since been back at least twice) and loved the vibrant, busy, resourceful culture and bountiful nature she found there. I got it. Enclosed by a dilapidated patchwork fence that somehow managed to hold up its end of the bargain anyway, Chicken Africa was a lively place full of interesting inhabitants.
Lifting the baling twine latch and passing through the vintage tubular steel and wire filigree gate that had once, long ago, been painted white, we walked by a large male turkey nibbling the front lawn and carefully followed our host along a wood pallet causeway into the back yard.
Chock full of coops, sheds, an ancient greenhouse, old dog houses and cages draped in plastic; and webbed with complicated arrangements of used fish netting, chicken wire, hardware cloth and string, the back yard was a bustling place. Each of the many pens held its own small group of birds, breeding trios and quads mostly, all different types. The greenhouse was split into three grow out pens, each home to twenty or so teenage Silkies destined, eventually, for Chinatown soup pots. There was even a death row, it’s lone occupant a plump Cornish cockerel who would be Sunday dinner.
Nothing went to waste in Chicken Africa it seemed, worn out tires held dust baths and nests, while old pots and pans and bits of crockery held water and cracked corn and crumble.
Our kind host showed us all her diverse collection, and she showed us her pride and glory too, a pair of vintage Leahy redwood incubators, each a work of art capable of holding 160 or so eggs. They were beautiful. They don’t make ‘em like that any more, and some day I will own one.
My friend and I each chose a few point of lay hens, Silkies mostly plus a showgirl each, handed over some cash, loaded up our new birds, and headed back down island.
Vegas earned her name when she went broody, and what a good mother she was. She raised two broods every summer, and laid eggs every winter. This spring she slowed down considerably and I knew she was getting ready to leave. Yesterday, I found that she had quietly embarked on her journey to the ever after.
Farewell Vegas. All in all, you lived a pretty good life. You were a faithful layer, a gentle flock member and a great mother. Five years is a good run for a chicken, although not exceptional. You were pretty exceptional in my book though. Thank you for decorating my barnyard, sharing your eggs and contributing your motherly skills to the increase of my flock.
Rest In Peace little chicken.