Last Friday, less than an hour before I needed to leave for the Good Friday service at church, Eldest came in from doing his chicken chores with a scared look on his face.
"Something's wrong with Mystery," he said. "She's curled up in the corner of the coop, and she's not moving."
We have been so blessed in the last two years of chicken parenthood -- every one of the seven little chicks we brought home in February '08 grew into a healthy pullet, then hen. No sickness. Only one neighborhood dog invasion, from which all but Jackie Blackie escaped untouched, and she recovered quickly.
Mystery was our only Rhode Island Red. Sometimes she was at the bottom of the pecking order, being a little smaller and shyer than her Orpington and Rock sisters. But she laid more faithfully than any of them. She was also Eldest's favorite -- he named her.
When he came in with that worried look on his face, Scott and I hurried out to the coop. Our little red hen was curled up in a little corner of the chicken yard, against the garage and the fence, her head tucked down as if asleep. But she was not asleep.
Scott put her gently into a cardboard box, and the boys helped me dig a hole in in a shady spot at the back of yard, near the blackberry vines. They laid yellow flowers on top of the grave, and wept a few tears in my arms.
Eldest dreamed that night that Mystery was alive again. But, of course, there was no Easter for her, poor baby. Sadly, I have few pictures of her, since her sisters were the camera hogs, and Mystery preferred to stay busy on her nest.
You will be missed, Mystery!