I told Lefty how it all began when a friend had asked, “Will you take Amelia?” The only explanation had been, “She needs you.”
My friend lives in a very rural part of a city next to ours but still needed five and a half acres of land to have any chickens. Amelia and the others in her flock of twelve needed new homes because of that law.
“I don’t understand how my city lets me have as many as six hens on a small city lot,” I said. “And in their city, they can’t have any chickens even though their yard is six times as big as mine”
Lefty nodded knowingly. He had to leave our garden home because of a different law that said, “No roosters allowed.”
“I visited them when they were growing up, and Amelia was definitely special. She did everything before anyone else ever thought of doing it, just like you, Lefty. She loved flying to high perching places no one else could reach.
“Once they moved outside, she would lead the whole flock as they flew from the back porch to the little koi pond and then to the magnolia trees or wherever Amelia’s heart led them. I never knew chickens could fly like that, but they did. Maybe because they saw Amelia doing it first.
“She has always seemed so independent to me, and I don’t understand how she could ever need me.”
“What kind of chicken is she?” he asked.
“Amelia is a Plymouth Barred Rock with black and white markings, but she has always insisted on being treated like a person, not like a chicken. Do you think she might be a Guardian like you?”
“Even if I knew she was a Guardian, I would not be allowed to tell you. That is what you might call a law for chickens. If she is a Guardian, the choice will be hers alone to reveal it to you.”
I had hoped Lefty would tell me more about what it means to be a Guardian, but he didn’t. He just looked over at his coop with me, and we both watched as a robin landed on the doorway and then hopped inside.
“A chicken may be something other than a Guardian,” he added, looking up at me. “Was she the only one you adopted?”
“One came along for companionship. She didn’t have a name, so I named her Emily because it is a sweet name that seems to fit her. She is like a little lady who always minds her manners and expects others to do the same.”
I paused because Lefty had been so clever. He had told me there are more than just Guardian chickens and had changed the subject so quickly that I didn’t have time to ask any more questions.
“She is a Golden Laced Wyandotte, so her brown markings on gold feathers make her stand out. She also has iridescent green in the feathers on her neck and face. She is the smallest of them all, and she seems to adore Amelia with all of her heart.”
I looked over at the coop door, but there was no longer anything out of the ordinary to see.
“Emily seems to have adjusted very well, but not Amelia. They have a temporary home right across the garden path from the one that you and I built together. It’s where the old compost pile used to be. That way the two groups can slowly get accustomed to each other. Then I will find a way to connect the two homes into one home.”
“That is prime worm-hunting real estate,” Lefty said. “You must love them very much.”
“I do. Even though Amelia won’t talk to me, but Emily will.”
Two wrens were perched on the back of a chair near the door to their coop. It was an odd chair with the legs curiously cut short. The robin flew out, and the first wren made a quick flight over to the doorway opening and hopped inside.
“Does she talk to Gracie and the others?” Lefty asked.
“She does. And you know what? They had distinctive dialects of ‘City Chicken’ and ‘Country Chicken.’ That surprised me.”
“I have a feeling there are many more even bigger surprises in store for you,” he said. “But tell me, what do you think Amelia needs?”
“I think she needs to be out in the country where she can fly. She can’t do that in the city. Do you think Amelia might be better off here with you and Rudy? Emily can come with her.”
“That is not what your friend told you. Your friend knows both Amelia and you. Maybe you need Amelia just as much as she needs you.”
“So what do I do, Lefty?”
“You need to start by building a new and bigger home right in the middle of the backyard garden. I will miss not being able to do that with you. This time you need to use longer boards. Eight feet long, not six feet long like before. It must be big enough for a person to walk inside and for chickens to fly inside.”
“That will mean giving up vegetable space.”
Lefty cocked his head and stared at me. He did not look happy.
“Did you or did you not tell Gracie that she was more important to you than anything in the garden when she was worried about The Biggest Scary Thing?”
I wanted to ask how he knew about that private conversation, but he didn’t give me time to speak.
“Are you saying that Amelia is less important than Gracie?” he demanded.
Suddenly I was wondering what was truly in my own heart for Amelia.
Then he smiled. I was relieved he had only been pretending to be angry.
“I see what you mean, Lefty. I need to treat Amelia as if she has always been with me, just like Gracie. But how will this new home help?”
The first wren flew out of the coop, and almost as quickly, the second wren landed on the doorway and hopped inside. Seemingly from nowhere, a lady cardinal landed on the top rail of the chair.
“Once they have moved into their new home, Amelia will let you know what you need to do next. When she does, come back and see me. Bring a drawing of what you have built. Then I will tell you what you need to add especially for Amelia.”
“That sounds like the old days when you and I built things together, Lefty.”
“I am excited about it too. Don’t you want a clue as to what it will be?”
“I trust that whatever it will be, it will be exactly what Amelia needs.”
“Trust is the word you must remember as you build,” he said. “Now come take a look at my family one last time before you leave. My little ones won’t be so little the next time you see them.”
The lady cardinal was not on the chair any longer. I had missed wherever she had gone, but I suspected the second wren had flown out of the coop and she was likely inside.
“Are you sure this is a good time?” I asked and nodded towards the chair.
“What an odd question,” he said. “Sometimes your imagination does get the best of you.”
Then he laughed nervously.
“Does it look like it is clearing up to you?” he asked and pointed upward with his beak.
As I looked up at the sky, out of the corner of my eye I saw the cardinal flying out of the coop door.
“I know there is a question you have been wanting to ask,” he said. “So I will go ahead and tell you.”
At last, I thought.
”The chair with the legs cut shorter is for Otis. He is too big to sit in the chair without tipping it over. So The Farmer cut the legs off some so it’s just right for Otis to sit in and watch over us. You might say he is a Best Big Buddy for us.”
“Otis!” he called and whistled as best as a chicken can whistle.
Otis came running and sat in his chair. He kept his eyes firmly set on the door to the chicken coop, smiling happily. It was easy to see he loved his new job.
“Chicks!” Lefty called, and then the trio walked eagerly down the Chicken ladder as Otis kept watch.