Our chickens are getting old.
They’re long in the beak, over the hill, past their prime. They’re no spring chickens.
The most obvious clue is the dwindling egg supply. In their heyday, our seven birds delivered almost three dozen eggs a week. Now, two years into their lifespan, we don’t get that much in a month. But it’s not just that they’re empty nest-boxers; they’re showing other signs of incipient decrepitude.
They move more slowly and less often. They hunker down in spots where they never hunkered before. They seem needier, hanging out by the kitchen door and bagawking. And they look looser, frayed around the edges. They don’t have the firm, alert bearing of a healthy young chicken.
It could be our imagination, but Kevin and I think our hens have some kind of instinctive understanding of what the brooder in the garage is there for. They can’t see the chicks that will be their replacements, but they can hear and smell the unmistakable signs of new lives. Perhaps that’s accelerating their decline.
This is a stark and timely reminder of what females are here on this earth to do. Our one and only job is to perpetuate whichever species we happen to be a member of. Once we can no longer do that job, nature is through with us, and it’s downhill from there.
That’s where our chickens are, and I feel their pain. We are, all eight of us, at the same place in our respective lifecycles. Their combs droop. My waist thickens. They mope around and look bedraggled. I sweat at night and menstruate at random. They lose weight and I gain it, but we’re not so different, the chickens and I.
I’m just glad there’s not an 18-year-old in a brooder in the garage.