Ode to Betty-Boop

DSCF7550Dear Old Betty-Boop.

Old-old Betty-Boop.

She loved ruffly dresses and petticoats and fancy shoes.

She was from a much earlier flock that came our way and was already grown and laying eggs. She is the only one left from the old days, before the pit bull attack and the bird ‘plague’.

It was the 4th of July years ago and hubby had gone on a trip to WA state, taking older son with him.  So it was just me and little Paul.

It was also a Sunday Morning. I was laying in bed wishing the dog, Jack, would stop his barking. I could hear it even over the fan blasting a few inches from my face. So, grumbling, I schlepped myself out of bed to go yell at him.

I should have more faith. Especially on a Sunday.

At the door I saw our next door neighbors Pitt Bull, Junior, with Betty Boop at his feet and other hens running away. I found our Rhode Island Red dead on the patio and Jack was barking at Junior to lay off. I was horrified. And with the men folk gone, I just had to deal with it.

Anyway, we had to get rid of at least one body, I remember, maybe 2, and nurse Betty Boop who had been wounded. The neighbors were as horrified as I. Their son owned him and left him there with his elderly parents who could  not take him for the walks he needed, or play with him. He got bored I guess.

The weird thing is, Betty Boop started acting strange, stumbling around, not eating or drinking. Eventually she stopped walking altogether. We thought it was from the attack but then another hen started the same thing. Stumbling, then not walking or eating. Then dying.

Then another hen started up and died. Betty Boop was the only one to survive the plague and that was with me force her to drink and eat. But she was never quite the same after that.

She no longer lay eggs.But who could blame her?  She still stumbled around a bit. But she was a survivor.

And she was pretty. She had feathers covering her feet and was extremely fluffy with lacy looking feathers.

The years went by and she still stumbled around, looking a bit drunk. She slowed down with time and it would be kind of funny watching her while we threw crumbs to ‘the girls’. While the other hens would dodge about gobbling up crumbs, she would look around and by the time her pea sized brain would realize food was there-it wasn’t. Or she would bend down to get it and miss, pecking the dirt. So we would always give her a special bit, distracting the other girls so she could take her time.

Sometimes Phil and Celina would feed her from her special cup, kind of like her own special feed bag. They would put scratch into it and stick her face right in so she couldn’t miss it. Boy, would she run to them when she saw them by the feed cans! You could imagine her picking up her petty coats and briskly waddling across the yard.

But finally it was chicken pox that brought her down. The hens tend to get them at the end of summer or fall. Not every year, but almost. I did not even notice it this year, but Phil did.

Well, hubby, one evening, told me “Just brace yourself, cause I think something is wrong with Betty Boop. She wasn’t walking this morning when I fed them and just didn’t look right. She might be dying.”

Hens can live well over 10 years. We really do not know how old she was.

So out I went to feed the girls and sure enough, there was our dear old girl lying dead near the coop. The others ignored her, excited to eat their breaky. (Hens are not heart warming creatures, FYI, and are fairly practical, mercenary even in their little tiny hearts.) A closer look showed pox marks on her comb and waddle. Yes, chickens can get chicken pox and that is probably how we got them. But they dont usually die of them. The first time we had this happen, it was to our baby chicks. We went running to the phone, calling the local feed store to ask what was going on and they patiently explained what it was.

Her lacy elegance will be missed.

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Betty and Hobbes having a pow-wow.

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