Oh my darling girl, my Greta. I cannot believe that you have left us. We have gone through so much together to keep you healthy and happy and then, in the prime of health, you decide it is time for you to go. We never got to say goodbye to you, to tell you we loved you and to wish you godspeed. But what was the very best way for you to go – suddenly, painlessly and in your sleep with your sisters around you – was perhaps the hardest for us unsuspecting humans to bear. My darling girl, I wish I could cuddle you one more time.
My sweet Greta was rescued in October 2012, one of three poorlie girls we took home from our rescue. A large, red swollen bottom meant my ever pessimistic prognosis was not good (but what do I know eh!!?). Initially Greta lived with the very poorlie Gina and the not quite so poorlie Grace Kelly in what was yet to be named Effie’s Garden. Sadly, Gina died soon after rehoming but Gracie the Pickle and Greta soon decided free range life was far too much fun to give up on and integrated with the Big Girls very quickly.
The Goodchicken name, as we know, is very sought after and one not lightly bestowed upon a chicken but Greta seemed to be born for the title. Always one to care for other girls, to clean their beaks (whether they needed it or not), to tend to poorlie sisters and to tolerate cuddles with humans, Greta was always the star. Miss Greta Goodchicken she became, a worthy recipient of Bunty’s legacy.
But Greta had other talents…secretly she was also a magpie. She coveted all things shiny. In particular, my earrings. She somehow managed to work out that if she came over to me all cuddly and cute I would bend down to stroke her, dangly earrings dangling aplenty. At this point she moved in for the kill. One of those oh so tantalising silver dangly earrings was whipped out by an expert beak and whisked off around the garden in a ‘really fun’ game. The time it took me to catch both her and the earring were naturally inversely proportional to the weather; sunny and warm meant a quick game, monsoonal rain or hurricane winds ensured a long and oh-so-fun game. You would think after the first time I would learn….it would seem not. Greta 3 – Idiot Human 0.
But Miss Garbo also had a thing for mobile phone cameras…or was it just the handsome gents operating them?? When Neil, keen photographer and husband of my lovely friend Jan, came to visit, Greta was entranced by his phone camera, inquisitively posing for shot after shot. As another infamous Rosewarne lady had had a bit of a thing for Neil (Effie who was oh so fickle in her affections had happily trotted across the garden to greet him – the girls can always tell a good egg) we assumed Greta was also smitten. But when lovely chicken friend Pete turned up and started to photograph the girls with his phone camera, Greta assumed the same diva-esque pose. Obviously she loved the camera. And it loved her right back!!
Greta’s other special talent was as an egg thief!! Not literally (although given the chance I am sure she would have tucked in) but as she had never laid an egg in her retirement I think her body was sending her eggy feelings. She used to wait outside the coop in the mornings until someone came out announcing the Great Arrival of their egg, before sneaking in, nestling atop the egg for a brief while and then rushing out to announce….Her Egg!!! No one else seemed perturbed by this egg plagiarism, so we congratulated her each day on her beautiful egg and everyone was happy.
That tummy though, swollen and red but still beautiful, was always present and caused us no end of problems. We, along with Uncle Jason, tried many many things to help her. She swelled up in the spring and slimmed down in the autumn but it wasn’t a fluid eggy mass, it was a solid one. Various vetty examinations didn’t reveal anything helpful, deducing it was scar tissue, and in the end a mixture of diuretics and occasional antibiotics seemed to keep any issues at bay. This year, we threw everything at getting her through another summer, mistakenly believing that once winter came we were safe for another year.
And by her fourth henniversary in October I hoped that she would be OK for a few more months at least. She was slim, spritely and racing round like a spring chicken so I, foolishly, stopped worrying about her. One Friday morning, I opened the coop, everyone trooped out and for once I didn’t do a headcount, lulled into a false sense of ‘all the hens are well’ security. When you have a poorlie girl, part of you always worries that you will find her dead in the morning. When everyone is well, you don’t have quite that same worry. So to open the nestbox and find my darling girl asleep forever was quite, quite horrifying. There had been absolutely no indication she was ill, in fact we had been commenting on how well she seemed. For her, naturally and for all of us, to go to sleep peacefully and surrounded by those we love is the best we can hope for. But for those she left behind it was heartbreaking. Selfishly, we had been denied our chance to say goodbye.
Miss Greta Garbo was a legend in our garden, and in our lives, our longest resident (Flora although a year older, came to us after 2 years’ fee) and our very best girl, central to our flock’s happiness and well-being. Losing both her and Lavender in close succession has broken our hearts and shattered our spirits – not to mention those of poor Flora who has lost her two wingmen (or women) in the space of a month. I keep seeing her in the garden (as Margot could be her twin sister) and I still talk to her – to all of those that have left us – every day.
Greta Garbo was the last of the Goodchickens – a beautiful, free spirit that shall always fly free amongst us. You chose to leave us on your own terms, darling girl, so please take this as my goodbye to you.
Godspeed precious girl, fly high xxxx