I made two trips to the feed and seed store that day. On the first trip I got three chicks, one of them was Lefty, a Buff Orpington who was full of energy and quite handsome.
I enjoyed those first three so much, I just had to get more, at least up to the legal limit for my city. So on the second trip I got three more chicks, two of them were Gracie and Bessie, also Buff Orpingtons.
Lefty is one I picked out myself on that first trip because he seemed so strong and spirited. (I didn’t know at the time he would be a rooster. I just knew he seemed very healthy.) But Gracie and Bessie were just two scooped up at random by the sales associate on that second trip.
So there were fourteen chicks to raise in a makeshift brooder in my sunroom. Eight were for friends. Six were for me. A red heat lamp was their “Chicken Mama,” and I was their “Chicken Daddy.”
Almost right away I noticed that Gracie was a little different. For all of the other chicks, the feathers above their beaks were arranged symmetrically. Gracie’s weren’t. Her face seemed slightly “lopsided.” She was very timid with the other chicks and much less inquisitive. She stayed close to Bessie whenever she could. They always slept beside each other, more by Gracie’s choice, but Bessie didn’t mind.
Within about the first two weeks, I started to notice a bulge on Gracie’s side near her thigh. I became worried that she had some kind of “hatch defect.” As the weeks went by, it grew with her. She didn’t seem to move quite like the others, but she did her best to act like them so that she wouldn’t get picked on.
When other chicks were gobbling down the earthworms and bugs I gathered for them in the morning, Gracie mostly stayed back away from the excitement until it was over and then would go to her best friend Bessie. Sometimes she got lucky and found a bug that the others missed, but not often.
Once I felt so badly about Gracie missing out on worms and bugs, I picked her up and tried to hand feed her, but she wouldn’t eat. Being with Bessie was more important to Gracie than even a tasty fresh meal of worms and bugs.
Gracie was slow to develop, and I wasn’t sure she would ever lay any eggs. Bessie started laying almost two months before her. During the long waiting period, I would tell Gracie every day, “It’s okay. You don’t have to lay eggs for me to love you. I’ll never get rid of you. You will always be my girl, just like Bessie.”
If these two had been part of a huge egg factory somewhere…well, I just don’t want to think about what would have happened to Gracie and how Bessie would have handled it.
Gracie and Bessie have always been quite inseparable.
There is so much more I could tell, and will tell one day, just not today. I don’t want to take away from this message about the beauty of their friendship.
My life with Gracie showed me having a friend is like finding the best shady spot on a hot summer’s day.
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