This recent summer hot spell has been rough, perhaps the longest and roughest my chickens have ever known. I have had to take extra steps to help make them comfortable.
I have run electric cords out into the backyard to power several low-noise fans. I’ve also used cooling block pans which have helped even more. (These are shallow pans with a concrete paver block that has been soaked in water. The pavers sit just above the water level so that when the chickens stand on them, they get an evaporative cooling effect.)
Even though I move their fan to give them a breeze through the big wire door to their coop at night, it is often just moving still-hot air. It’s not always easy for them to get a good night’s sleep. Instead they take a series of short naps at night and more naps during the day, often after taking a dustbath in the cool earth.
Gracie is different though. When I get home from work, she often has one or two of the others nearby in the dustbath they have dug in front of the fan. They will be peacefully taking a long deep sleep while she is keeping watch over them.
Emily depends on her the most. Perhaps it is because she is the smallest and feels the most vulnerable. Perhaps it is because they share a kinship of the heart even though they are completely different kinds of chickens on the outside.
Gracie doesn’t close her eyes to nap until Emily gets up from resting beside her. You can tell she wants to sleep some herself, but she won’t leave Emily unprotected even though they are secure in their run.
When I get home, I will sit in my chair under the camellias as quietly as I can so I don’t wake anyone up from a nap. Often I want to give Gracie some comforting words and to thank her for being such a good leader, but I don’t want even my softest voice to wake up Emily who is by her side. Gracie understands this as I silently mouth, “Thank you, Gracie.”
She knows I will be there for a while when I start reading a book which I almost always bring outside with me. When she sees me starting to read, then she slowly closes her eyes too. She passes the role of protector of the flock to me, and then she can rest as well.
It may be wrong and foolish of me to believe that Gracie holds in her heart all of the goodness that a chicken’s heart can possibly hold, but those words overflow from my own heart. I must say them, right or wrong.
There are no predators that could get in and hurt them, but still Emily needs the comfort of knowing Gracie is watching over her. Gracie with all of the goodness in her heart can not let Emily down.
My Life With Gracie opened my heart to see the kindness of giving rest.
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