Charlotte was a Buff Orpington. The Buff Orpington is the “mother hen” of chickens. They can come in different colors, usually a lavender (which is more like white with grey flecks) or gold. Ours was gold.
They are known for heavily brooding if there is no rooster in the flock and they don’t hatch chicks. This was true for our Charlotte as well. The Buff Orpington makes a great family pet and are very friendly. They also like to eat. Well fattened up, they are usually the main courses for many people who like to eat chicken.
My daughter made the comment that the nicest animals always get hurt the most. For example, Beagles have a very patient temperament and are used for experiments in science. The same goes for the Buff Orpington. Because they are so friendly and coincidentally fat, they are the ones chosen for food.
We had Charlotte and her flock mate Moon for almost three years. They were cute little chicks when we received them, right around Independence Day and the same year as the death of my stepfather. That was one of the last things I told him while he was coherent or at least perceived coherent. He grew up with chickens so it was a moment of pride when for me when my family decided we could raise chickens. We only took two because we wanted to see how it went with a pair of them.
My husband secured a coop that he liked and painted it a maroon to match our house. I ordered us a solar light that mimicked the eyes of predators that we fastened to the outside of the coop. It flashed whenever movement was detected. The hope was to deter any night hunters from the woods behind our house. My husband also reinforced the ground with wiring so that predators could not dig underneath.
Me DH loved Charlotte and Moon so much, he build a sliding door for use in the winter to help stave away the cold. He bought hay from the local farmer that he spread around the coop during winter that kept them warm at night. I brought home some feather spray and watched him clean the birds during the spring and winter. He held her every day and was their primary caretaker, although we’ve all pitched in many times. The chickens picked him as their person. He was their daddy.
The years passed and the hens wanted to stay out longer and longer. One night, our usual routine changed and although we put them away at dusk, that night, we each assumed the other had done it. It was not until my husband went to spray their feathers that he noticed Charlotte was not in her usual place in the coop. He wondered if she was brooding again. She had just been broody a few days prior to that night. She was not in the coop, there was only Moon.
That’s when he discovered the feathers. In the corner of the yard, all that was left of Charlotte was a cloud of feathers. “Plucked feathers mean a hawk got her.” But there were feathers that we discovered out in trails to the creek. We believe a hawk got her but was unable to lift her up. But we had heard a fox earlier that evening. We found it so strange to hear one so early in the evening. It was still daylight. We realized we were moments away from being able to save her.
Our children were horrified. As my husband and I combed our property, we found clumps and clumps of feathers. Strangely, there was no blood. It was not until our son came out to help search for Charlotte, that we discovered a stronger evidence of injury behind the fire place. It was my son who saw it. He immediately broke down.
The next day, my daughter took one of the our dogs, Iza through the forest. Iza sniffed the remaining feathers while my daughter kept repeating, “Charlotte, Charlotte!” Iza always wanted to play with Charlotte but never did for fear of getting pecked. Iza led my daughter down two houses in the back and circled back to our house. She led my child to another patch of feathers that my husband and I did not find. That is probably where Charlotte died.
We have finally come to terms that Charlotte is for sure gone. We will miss her pleasant demeanor and the way she would dust bathe when the weather was nice. I will miss the sounds of two chickens clucking. We piled her feathers, her beautiful gold feathers near the honeysuckles behind the greenhouse. We cannot live with what ifs, – we have been kept up for nights with what ifs, but will do right by Moon and protect her to the best of our ability.