Ruby is a survivor – one of seven who escaped the coyotes when they attacked her flock on a stormy day in June. After the assault, I gathered the survivors and moved them to a cozy box-stall at the barn where they would be safe from predators and where I could keep close watch over them. The hens stopped laying eggs and spent most of their time sitting silently on their roost. Ferdinand, the only duck to survive the onslaught, slept for two weeks straight. He was covered in the dried blood of his comrades and although uninjured himself, seemed to be deeply traumatized. He quit eating and refused to bathe in the little pool I had set up and I worried he might pass away from grief.
Then, one morning in July, something changed. I walked into the barn and heard the cheery cackle of happy chickens. I hurried to the stall and looked through the chicken wire: The six hens were off the roost, scratching in the straw. Ferdinand was still laying down, but his head was out from under his wing and he was watching his flock-mates busy about their work. A few days later, the first egg appeared in the manger and by the end of the week, Ferdinand took his first swim. Joy had returned to the camp.
This evening as I did chores, I took this photo of Ruby, napping in the late afternoon sun. Watching her doze in the golden light, it occurred to me that her life is not very different from my own – or from the lives of most human beings. Ruby is a survivor and so are we.
Life is hard and it doesn’t play favorites. Tragedy comes even to those who are gentle and pure in heart, to those who least deserve it. So what do we do in the face of a Universe like this? My solace is found in the words of writer James Allen: “For those who will fight bravely and not yield, there is triumphant victory over all the dark things of life” …and in the courage of a chicken named Ruby.