The brother and sister duo of Violet and Chickweed were the second and third chickens in residence at what would become the Eastern Shore Sanctuary. Like Viktor, they had leapt or fallen from a truck headed for the factory. Found on the roadside by a nice lady, they rode to the local Humane Society cuddled up with a dog on the backseat of her car. Then they came to live with us.
Although as large as adult chickens of other breeds, Violet and Chickweed were still peeping like little chicks when they arrived. They were extremely devoted to one another and took turns protecting one another from perceived dangers. We will never forget the spring that they spent with us. Watching them grow among the wildflowers and weeds, we came to truly appreciate the horror of the poultry industry, which deprives young birds of everything natural and then kills them before they even reach maturity.
As they grew, Violet and Chickweed’s individual personalities began to emerge. Chickweed was a sunny and outgoing young bird, while Violet was more quiet and shy. They remained close as they grew, rarely straying more than a few feet from one another.
Then they reached the bird equivalent of puberty. Chickweed started trying to crow, his little voice cracking and changing pitch until he got it right. Stomping around on his suddenly very large feet, Chickweed started paying a lot of attention to the other hens who had come to live at the sanctuary. For her part, Violet also sought a wider social circle, spending more and more time socializing with other hens her age. But, Violet and Chickweed checked in with one another frequently in the course of each day and always slept cuddled up together at night.
Then, tragedy struck. Violet got a cut that, because of its location, we didn’t see until it became infected. We washed and treated the wound and brought her inside. The next morning, she was dead. Because this was summer and heat-related heart attacks are common among these birds, we don’t know for sure whether complications from the the injury or a heart attack killed her.
Chickweed was devastated. He watched us bury Violet and, for the next several weeks, would return to stand silently at the place from which he had last seen her. Like many people do when they are mourning, he became very angry and would rage around the yard every day. At night, he would stand in the coop alone, drooping with sadness.
Chickweed never recovered his sunny personality. While he became less angry over time, he was never the same as he had been before Violet died. That is not to say that he didn’t have happy times. He became close to several roosters slightly younger than himself and also remained close to the sanctuary coordinator, with whom he spent time almost every day.
Chickweed lived with us for just over a year. Over the winter, he developed a respiratory infection that eventually stopped responding to treatment. Sanctuary co-founder pattrice jones spent a lot of time with him towards the end, and he seemed to take comfort from that. He would lean against her, just resting, after she gave him medicine or fed him a special treat.
When she buried Chickweed, pattrice felt compelled to include a few special objects in his grave and went running around looking for appropriate symbols. (She settled on a fossil and a Sacagawea dollar.) She imagined future archaeologists digging up our property. She wanted them to know: This chicken wasn’t anybody’s dinner. This chicken was somebody’s brother; this chicken was somebody’s friend.
Chickweed was never the same after Violet died. Having loved and lost them both, we were then the ones who would never be the same.