Despite looking very odd, she never let this get in her way. When she was young, she would fly up and into the hanging feeder so that she could have her own private meals. When dinner was too slow, she would fly up onto one of our shoulders to hurry us along.
As she got older, she developed a habit of jumping right into the bin of chick food, standing in the crumbles, and filling her craw by repeatedly pecking at the mounded food at her feet. Every day she would be the first out of the coop and escort us to her feed bin. She'd fly up on the edge and "bawk bawk bawk" her impatience with us. Every night she would be the last bird put away. She would start her dinner as soon as we went out for evening chores, and when we were done feeding birds and milking goats, we would scoop a now stuffed chicken into our arms and carry her to the coop to tuck her away with the other birds for the night.
You can imagine that we got a bit attached to this quirky, tough little girl. When we had visitors, we would always scoop up Betty for a greeting, our goofy looking chicken emissary. She even let small children stroke her soft, if often disheveled, feathers on many occasions. Of all the poultry we have out there, Betty found a way into our hearts, and I know both Big Onion and I thought of her as a beloved pet.
A couple of days ago, it was getting close to time for evening chores and the Big Onion and I were puttering around the front yard, checking on the raised garden boxes full of new veggie plants and seeing how some of the fruit trees fared the winter. Normally around this time Betty would wait for us at the back gate so that she can escort us to the poultry house for her dinner. Big Onion was just telling me that the evening before Betty was waiting up on the gate for him when we heard one loud squawk. We looked at each other and hurried through the lanai to the backyard where we found a chicken just taking its last breath. I rushed over and sure enough it was our Betty.
I guess she got impatient waiting for us to come out and decided to fly into the backyard with the dogs. In her defense, Betty grew up with Luna running around and herding all the birds but her so she had no reason to think she would be in danger. Although Luna and the other shelties are safe being surrounded by chickens and ducks and geese out in the pasture, a bird flying into the backyard with four loose dogs is a whole different story.
I scooped up Betty's now lifeless body, and it was obvious that her neck had been broken. It had happened very quickly. As I lifted her up, something fell onto the grass at my feet. It was a small, soft, half formed egg. Big Onion and I had always assumed that Betty would never lay due to her deformity and her small size, but it turns out she was one of the chickens producing the small eggs that we consider little treasures since we have to save all the larger ones for sale. Betty had been making eggs for us.
It was rapidly getting dark so we brought her body out to the poultry house and laid her on top of her feed bin while we got everyone put away, fed, and milked for the evening. Luna stood vigil by the body. She is always so upset when any of her charge comes to harm. I took a few of Betty's pretty wing feathers and hung them on the poultry house door.
After all the chores were done, Big Onion, Luna, and I grabbed a shovel and a flashlight and buried Betty right next to Mrs. Duckie another of our pet birds that met a sad end.
Goodbye Betty, we're really going to miss you!