You were only a couple of weeks old when we got you and your sister, Alice. You were both named after the girls from the Twilight movies. When you were younger, we could tell you apart by the fact that you, Bella, had two light stripes running down your back (2 “L”s, as it were), while Alice was the darker one. You were both Hi-Line chickens, bred for laying eggs, and we bought you from Rockingham City Farmers in August 2012, shortly after moving into our new home.
When you both were young, we kept you inside the house in a cardboard box under a lightbulb for warmth. Every day we’d take you out for a run up and down the corridor. Of course you girls made a mess of the wooden floorboards, but that was easily wiped away.
When you got too big for your box, we put you up in a Chic Chick Chalet, a large, double-storey wooden henhouse. Later, we made up an additional hen run and attached it to your house so you could stretch your legs and wings more.
Last year, we got some steel poles and chicken wire, and built a large enclosure in the garden for you both. We moved your henhouse into the enclosure, and its door open so you and your sister could come and go as you pleased.
Once the dogs and cat had gotten used to seeing you, and once I was satisfied they would not harm you, I started letting you out into the garden in the afternoons. Oh, you both loved that part the most. You would follow me to the gate and cluck impatiently for me to open it and let you out. I didn’t mind if you felt that sometimes you had to give my feet a peck as you passed by. You were ever so good at going home by yourselves to roost at night, and all I had to do was shut your gate again.
Your eggs were the best, and nothing beats a breakfast of fried or scrambled freshly-laid hen’s eggs on toast. You and Alice would grace us with an egg every day, only skipping some days, and occasionally giving us some “fart eggs” (small eggs without a yolk inside) and at other times extra large double yolkers.
For more than two and a half years you lived and clucked away contentedly in our garden. You were such an endearing, funny character. Your favourite treats were shredded cheese, yoghurt, bread and crumbled hard-boiled eggs. Oh, and you were both partial to a piece of dogfood sausage too in the mornings, along with your poultry mix and lettuce leaves. You had a daily stream of visitors, in the form of some native pigeons (I’m not quite sure what breed they are), and a lone English pigeon that I named Louie Cooie. They came every morning to share your breakfast with you.
I always knew when you’d laid an egg because you’d cackle your head off and announce it to the world. When you moulted badly last year, I fed you extra protein to keep your strength up for growing new feathers. And you came through like a star. When you caught heatstroke last summer I watered down your enclosure every morning to cool it down, gave you apple cider vinegar in your water, and you rallied and recovered.
Then came disaster in the form of stick-fast fleas. They came literally out of the woodwork like thieves in the night, and attacked the Japanese Quail. They attached themselves in close clusters around the eyes of the quail, and literally sucked the life out of them. First the boys, then a few of the girls too. By the time I caught on and bought a medicated wash for the quails (Malaban wash), half the quail population had been destroyed by these nasty parasites.
And then I noticed that you and Alice had a few of the same fleas on your combs. I gave you both a Malaban wash as well. But your comb became droopy and blue-tinged. You lost muscle tone. You grew lethargic. Whatever I tried, you didn’t get better. You struggled on valiantly, coming down the ramp of your house in the mornings so you could join Alice in scratching around the earth for worms. And going back upstairs at night to sleep on your perch. And all the time your energy levels were steadily depleting.
And then this morning, I woke up and just knew you were gone. I looked in your enclosure, and you were lying still at the bottom of the ramp to the henhouse. Alice, your sister, was just standing by you, quietly clucking.
We buried you next to the henhouse this morning, so you can still keep Alice company. I moved your water dispenser and the heavy tile it stood on over your grave, to deter any cats from digging. The Kid and I said our good byes to you, and I found an old half-brick and wrote your name and today’s date on it as your headstone.
Rest in peace now, my lovely Bella. I will never forget the joy you gave us all. ❤❤❤
Here is a YouTube video I made of you laying an egg in your henhouse, back in 2012. Alice makes a cameo appearance towards the end. I’m glad I have this video.
BELLA LAYS AN EGG: https://youtu.be/6es2JFEpQNc
And here is Alice, sitting on her own outside the henhouse, in the company of three visiting pigeons.