by Anthony R
(Azusa, CA USA)
My crazy Maxi
Maxi made her way to my parents' house after being mysteriously left in their yard. Originally called "Maxima" by my folks because she was a big Rhode Island Red hen that reminded them of their full-figured friend with an attitude, I shortened the name down to Maxi after my dad gave her that nickname after trying to sound cute with her one day.
She was a very curious chicken and really liked the company of people. She would follow my parents everywhere they were doing yardwork and even tried to be helpful from time to time by digging in spots that my folks would plant trees and other plants.
My parents fell in love with her instantly and she became a part of the family. They would talk and play with her whenever they would be outside. She was curious about everything, and I can remember one time my dad had a conversation with her after she discovered a mirror and stared at it for a long time, to which he told her she "is already beautiful".
She was also pretty fearless for a chicken. She wouldn't back away from a stray cat that made its way into the yard and never ran away whenever she would see new people or animals.
My folks weren't able to take care of her because they weren't at the house all the time, so I took her in, despite living hours away from where she was originally accustomed to. It took her a few weeks to get used to the neighborhood, but after a while, I knew that she only had a few requirements: feed her, let her walk around in the front yard at least once a day and let her be curious and helpful to you whenever she saw you.
When she was with me, she made a lot of friends in my neighborhood. The children and their parents would stop by and wave at her. The old couples on their walks would talk to me about their chickens that they had when they were growing up. Even teenagers on their walks with their friends would stop by when they saw her in the front yard and take pictures with her for their social media pages.
She never turned away from people that came by, but she knew to steer clear if anyone or anything were a danger. Despite that, she would still lay eggs when she felt like it and always let you know when she wanted to be in your company. She also had a very "old person" walk when she would be tired at the end of the day on the way to bed.
It was pretty hard to stay angry at her, even if she dug up your plants or wandered across the street into a neighbor's house, yet she knew not to wander far if you pick her up and move her somewhere else after a while.
After a few weeks of living with her, it was very easy to pick up her mannerisms and way of speaking to a point where I would mimic her noises when she would "talk." Once I started to do that, it became easy to describe what she would "say" to my parents when I tell them a story about what she was doing every week over the phone.
My parents would get a laugh and thought they were actually hearing her talk on the phone. It brought joy to them to hear about what she was doing, and they wished they could actually see her, but distance and COVID wouldn't make that possible.
To make up for it, whenever I would be on a video conference call from with my parents, I would make sure to carry my cell phone with me with the camera on to make sure that my folks would see her, and you could see the smiles on their faces whenever they would see Maxi roaming around, eating, pecking or digging around the backyard.
I would follow it up every now and then with a video clip of things I thought were funny that my parents would love to see and send them through Skype for my parents to see at their leisure. She was probably the only chicken I knew that had somewhat of a social media following.
Friends of mine that never saw her up close would see photos of her or hear stories I would tell about what she did in the day and it would always surprise them about how smart and funny she was when she would try to eat grapes off the vine, leaves off a tree or even interact with people without batting an eye or ruffling a feather.
Friends and family would always tell me how a chicken would be an odd choice for a pet, but they would also ask me questions about how she is doing and what adventures she would get herself into.
She wasn't just a chicken. She was like a guard dog, always watching the house and making noises whenever she would see or hear something. I didn't have much to buy a chicken coop, but I always made sure she was protected from neighborhood coyotes or stray cats in the area.
I remember one time, in order to make her comfy at the end of the day, I found a dog igloo that someone was throwing out online so that she would have some shelter from the elements, and my sister gave me a pet carrier to bring her around when she had to travel. Even though the igloo was big and I made sure she had bedding and a blanket made from a Hawaiian shirt I stopped wearing so that she would stay warm, she settled on making the pet carrier I left out on the porch as her permanent home after using the igloo for several weeks. The carrier became her safe space and spot she would permanently lay her eggs in and would stay her home for until the very end.
The day she went away was almost like any other day, where she would look in on me through the door and we'd have a conversation about the weather and I'd make chicken sounds that she seemed to like.
I went out to feed her and she was there to follow close by when I had the food. She had laid an egg earlier and I thanked her for it. I remember looking up at the clouds and telling her that if it starts to rain and get windy that she should go to her carrier until the weather gets better. And then that was the last time I saw her full of life and roaming happily before the rains came.
A few hours into the rainy weather, I wanted to make an update video for my folks with Maxi to let them know we were okay even with the rain storms going on. It was at that time that I noticed things were quiet and her food wasn't fully eaten. I remember bringing the food under the porch near her carrier and looking in on her and saw her in her resting position, but the only difference was that her head was down and she wasn't breathing.
I didn't want to believe that she had went and thought she was cold, so I brought her in and turned on the heater to try to warm her, but she wasn't moving. It was at that moment that I realized that she was gone. I couldn't get myself to cry until I had to start breaking the news to my family back home.
They were sad and heartbroken to hear that she had passed away and were telling me that they were looking forward to our next visit to them because they were fixing fences and making sure that Maxi would have food to eat when she visits. When the grief subsided and the condolences were given, we all agreed that she should be given a proper burial the following day.
Saying goodbye to Maxi was hard. I'm still getting teary-eyed thinking about it as I am writing this. When the time came to bury her, I wrapped her in the Hawaiian shirt blanket she used when she first moved in and buried her near the first spot she used to hang out and lay eggs in when she made my place her home. I planted a Bird of Paradise plant above her so that nothing would disturb her. The plant's beak managed to face the walkway after I planted it, and nudges me when I'm in that part of the yard.
It's become a reminder of how Maxi would always nudge me when she's bored, so I never bothered to readjust its position. It would give me a smile to think that in some way she was still with me and thinking about me, too.
I didn't think I'd enjoy having a chicken as a pet, and she made for some very interesting stories to tell to family and friends from time to time, and now that she has gone to chicken heaven, it feels weird not making noises for her and not seeing her run to me at feeding time or exercise time.
She was my "crazy chicken" that turned my life around, and yet I'm not mad at her for doing it. I'm glad that she came when she did and brought us all happiness in the short time we've had with her.
She may be gone, but she still live on in stories that I still tell to people that haven't met her and memories that I have with her.
May she rest in peace and keep watch over me and the rest of the friends and family that love her.