THE CHICKENS ARE DYING. The old hens have been good to us, laying their eggs to give us food. If you've never eaten a farm-fresh egg with its orange-yellow yolk rich as sweet cream, then you haven't eaten an egg. But the first batch of layers, from the spring of 2003, are getting tired now.
It can't be easy pushing out eggs every day. But their efforts don't go unappreciated. If I could pet them, I would, but they don't like that too much. Even though they know me, know I bring them grain and scraps, even break their own eggs, which they devour like starved children, their instinct tells them I'm a predator and they scurry away when I offer up my empty hand.
How a domesticated animal processes this contradiction, I'll likely never know.
So I talk to them. Tell them I love them. Especially the two that are so tired they can't even get up to eat anymore. Soon, their carcasses will be food for foxes. Now, the chickens are dying.
And even though I didn't name them, their passing makes me cry. And that's just the way it is.