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Littlest chicken didn’t lack for pluck

If chickens were people, they would be the kind featured on certain MTV reality shows: always ready for a brawl, sex-obsessed and more than happy to pick their housemates to death.

But not Butterscotch, our little buff silkie. The smallest of our 10 chickens, she was a George Bailey in a coop full of Mr. Potters.

Being the smallest in any group is rarely an advantage. It's particularly bad if you're a barnyard animal.

Our chickens love it when we throw them stale bread or leftover fruit. They swarm around, grabbing big chunks of strawberries or Heiner's Old Fashioned White Bread, trying to choke down the food before their coop-mates can.

Butterscotch usually wound up near the back of the pack. Even if she got to the grub first, the other hens would push her back. She'd try to fight back to the front, but usually was rebuffed.

She couldn't even sleep with the other chickens. Due to her small size and limited flight ability, it was difficult for Butterscotch to get up on the roost. Many nights she'd just nuzzle into the hay on the chicken coop floor.

None of it seemed to bother her, though. She had a bounce in her step. She sometimes would take off running, as if she enjoyed feeling the wind in her fuzzy little feathers.

If a chicken can have a happy disposition, Butterscotch had one.

And if a chicken can be kind, Butterscotch was kind.

Most of our hens just pop out an egg and run off to keep doing what they do best: scratch at the dirt and find ways to poop on vertical surfaces.

Not Butterscotch. She would climb in the nesting boxes after the other hens left and scoop the eggs underneath her to keep them warm.

She was sitting on those eggs no matter what time I went to the chicken house. As far as I know, she spent all day sitting on eggs she didn't lay.

It broke my heart to rob her nest. I'd reach back in the box and pull her out, uncovering a half-dozen warm eggs.

Butterscotch never held it against me, though. She never once pecked at me. She'd just shake her head and flap her wings a little, like a person stretching after a deep sleep. Then she'd run over to the feeder and nibble a few food pellets.

If I can model my life after anyone in the coming New Year, I want to be like Butterscotch.

You'll notice I write about her in the past tense. She died the night before Thanksgiving.

I worked late that day and didn't have a chance to collect the eggs until after church, around 10 that night. I started toward the coop and heard a lot of flapping and clucking. Those are not normal sounds that late at night. I went back in the house and got my pistol.

One of our red hens met me at the coop door. She was freaked out. I noticed the rest of the chickens on the roost, huddled together and clucking. They were scared of something.

I looked in the corner and saw a possum with a bloodied Butterscotch in its mouth. I took a step forward. It dropped her and hissed at me.

I aimed. Two shots, and the possum was no more. I gave it two more for spite.

I then turned my attentions to Butterscotch. I scooped her up, carried her outside and lay her on the ground. She was grievously injured. The possum did a number on her, making big gashes on her belly. She was still alive but barely breathing.

I ran to the house to get my wife, Whitney. By the time I returned, Butterscotch was dead.

We still have a half-dozen of her eggs in our fridge. We never gave them to anybody, as they were much smaller than our other chickens' eggs. They tasted just fine, though, and were perfect for fried egg sandwiches.

But that last half-dozen will probably remain untouched. I don't think I'll ever be able to eat them.

I realize we'll have to throw them out someday. Right now, it just makes me too sad. Because once those eggs are gone, so will be the only kind, happy-go-lucky chicken I ever met.

Contact writer Zack Harold at or 304-348-7939.


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