This morning I went out to do my farm chores, stopping by the coop to check on the chickens and top off the feeder. I opened the door and my heart sank. Lukka, my sweet blue Icelandic hen was sitting in a nest box, dead. Isi, her lifelong partner, stood guard by her side. I closed the door and collapsed in tears on the steps. I sobbed until Michael came out and found me.
If you have never had chickens you cannot understand the bond. People who say, “It was just a chicken” have no idea. If you are one of these people, you just want to stop reading now, but if you’ve ever loved a chicken, let me tell you about Lukka.
Lukka hatched on April 21, 2009, and came into our lives via a shipping box from southern California on February 10, 2010. The moment we opened the box and saw her, we were in love. Two seconds later, she and her boyfriend Isi escaped the box and flew around the house until Michael caught them. My year-long quest to find Icelandic chickens was over and I was thrilled.
Shipping had been delayed because Lukka, at just 10 months old, was broody and had to be broken. That was the first of many, many broody times for Lukka. You see Lukka had one goal in life and she was obsessed with it. She wanted to be a mama. Not once, twice or a dozen times. She was always broody. I never tried to break her because she loved hatching and raising babies. She was a wonderful mother to hundreds of chicks over the years. Some she hatched out herself and others I slipped under her straight out of the incubator. She stole eggs from other hens and happily raised any babies abandoned by their mothers. Lukka hatched and raised everything from mutts to our most expensive endangered breeds. She never met a chick she didn’t love.
Lukka was patient with her babies, often lying on the ground in the shade, while they jumped all over her and sat on her head. She cooed and clucked at her babies, always gently pushing them back under her feathers to keep them warm. But, she wasn’t a pushover. She began teaching her babies how to be a chicken from the time they hatched. Even tiny babies learned to dig in the dirt for worms and dust bathe. She taught them to come running when the treat bucket came out. She did not tolerate stragglers and staying out after curfew was reason enough for a gentle beat down.
I would be hard pressed to find anything I didn’t love about Lukka.
Some hens stop caring for their babies after a few short weeks. Not Lukka. Oh, no. She mothered her babies until they were way too old to need her anymore. I submit as evidence, this picture of Lukka and one of her “babies.” Lukka turned her babies loose when she was ready and not a moment earlier.
Lukka once came close to dying during a brood when she failed to leave the nest to eat or drink. I was lucky to find her in time and she lived to raise more babies. She was sitting on three little white eggs in the nest box this morning when I found her. As sad as it is, I could not have wished for a better end for sweet Lukka. She died, tucked in her favorite nest box with warm eggs under her belly, a mama to the very end. Michael laid her to rest in the pasture where some of her old girlfriends are buried.
I have a wonderful group of chicken friends on Backyard Chickens. I regale them with boring, long-winded farm stories, recipes, and way too many pictures. Over the years they have come to love Lukka too, and no one even bats an eye when I end a post with “oh, and Lukka’s broody.”
When hearing the news of Lukka’s passing, one of my friends commented, “Lukka was legend.” And, she was. Chicks and fertile eggs from Lukka have made their way to nearly every state in the USA. She lives on and I take comfort in that, but there will never be another Lukka. She was one in a million. She was legend. Rest in peace mama.
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