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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Thank you for sharing Lukka’s story, and I am so sorry she is gone. What a wonderful hen!
Mary, so sorry about Lukka. She died on my birthday.
Thanks Dar. She gave us all a lot of joy didn’t she? She really knew how to be a chicken. I’ll never forget her.
Belated happy birthday my fiend.
Thank you Jenn. We miss her.
My most heartfelt sympathies for the loss of Lukka. Animals have a way of touching our heart that is impossible to describe. They are part of the family.
Dennis the Vizsla says
hello mary its dennis the vizsla dog hay i am sorry to heer that lukka had to go away!!! my dada sez that he wunse met a verry frendly rooster naymd rooster cogburn at a sancthooary for the meerkats and before that he had no ideea chickens had such personaliteez as that but now he nos better!!! ok bye
So very very heartbreaking. I cried my eyes out reading this. I’m so sorry for your loss.
Thanks everyone. Lukka had many friends. 🙂
Rebecca Starcher says
I have big tears running down my cheeks and my heart feels for you…as you said only those of us that understand CAN,,,This short story of your Lukka should go to publishing
Thank you so much Rebecca.
Cynthia B. says
I’m so very sorry to hear of her passing, Mary. I have sobbed until I couldn’t breathe over so many treasured chickens who’ve passed. My RIP List from the past going-on-ten-years has reached 44 birds. I remember every one, the voice, the quirks, their looks, everything. They were all well-loved and they knew it. Lukka knew it, too. RIP, beautiful, sweet Lukka.
~Cynthia “speckledhen” on BYC
A lovely tribute to a wonderful hen.
I cried for Lukka too 🙁 That’s 2 websites I’m following that have lost their beloved hens this past week. Lukka was only 6 y/o and seems too young to be gone. All chickens are lovely but some stand out more in remembrance than others in our lives.
Drumstick Diva says
Goodbye sweet Lukka,, ‘ Mother of the Year,’ every year.
Thank you. Really.