It was a sad day when Little Ava left us to cross over the Rainbow Bridge. She had been slowing down for a while, not quite herself but not ill either. One morning she was more lacklustre than usual and when I looked again at lunchtime her spirit had gone, only her body remaining.
Ava first arrived with her larger friend Mabel back in 2018.
It took the pair a while to settle in with Jemima, Florence and Dottie and, although Ava was able to defend herself if need be, she was quick to gain a reputation for a peaceful, wise hen.
Following two tiny ‘pixie eggs’, Ava decided that egg laying was not for her, perhaps because she was the smallest of the hens. Instead she devoted herself to a career of daydreaming. I often wondered what she was thinking of when she would be perching (she liked to perch high up).Maybe she was meditating on a deep philosophical issue?
When it was time for mealworms, she was always polite – you go first, she would say to the others. It was hard to tell whether she was officially bottom of the pecking order, being the smallest, or whether she just wasn’t as interested in worldly issues as food.
Whereas Mabel became tame fairly quickly, Ava was frightened of humans and would scarper if anyone got close. Top hen Jemima didn’t care for people, always being slightly suspicious of such creatures, but Ava seemed scared.
But then one day my godchildren visited and surprisingly they befriended Jemima (the ‘wildest’ of the chickens) and Ava. Little Wilfred, four, would keep picking up and carrying Little Ava into the house. By the time my young visitors left, Ava had lost her fear and seemed to be happy to be picked up. She ended up being one of the easiest to be picked up!
Ava was usually laidback but if she wanted something, she was determined to have it. Freedom was very important to her. And once the ladies were allowed to venture into the back garden so they could eat the grass – in a confined area – she decided being hemmed in was no longer enough for her. Freedom was vital and she would fight for it. Every day I would find Ava on the other side of the fenced-off run. She would often perch, looking at her enclosed friends, as if to say, “is nobody else joining me?” The others would be watching her enviously, wondering what magical trick Ava had pulled to escape. Eventually her strategy worked. Fed up of taking her back into the enclosed area, only to find that she had yet again escaped five minutes later, I relented and let them have their freedom of the back garden. It was a victory for the smallest, meekest hen.
Ava was more independent than sociable, often do her own thing, but she had no enemies and got on with all. When esteemed leader Jemima died, Ava was content to follow Dottie. When Victoria, Matilda and Eliza arrived, the slow integration process came into play. In their separate coop, I let Ava and Mabel meet them from a distance. Mabel – going through a brooding process at the time – took months to acclimatise to them. Ava, on the other hand, took to them quickly.
Was she now leader? She showed dominance by perching (how like Little Ava!) on top of their low level coop. “I might be small, but I am still your elder” she might have said. Within a fortnight Ava could be found mixing with the young ones. I would find that they all liked to be near her. She was a comforting presence to be around.
A peacemaker, a daydreamer, a freedom lover, Ava never followed the crowd but was just herself, a unique individual. For a small chicken, she seemed to be very wise indeed.