When I first moved in with my now husband, I knew it was already going to be a full house.
He had one dog, Opae, and I had my two.
But I didn’t realize the family was actually a lot larger than I had originally thought.
About three years ago, he got two tiny brown layer chicks from the family-run Asagi Hatchery in Kalihi, one of the first and only commercial chicken hatcheries in the state. He gently hand-raised the two — named ‘Ekahi and ‘Elua (Hawaiian for one and two) — and built them a pen outside, spacious enough for 12, under strawberry guava, banana and ‘ulu (breadfruit) trees. It’s a nice, serene retreat for any animal, and these chickens are living the life.
The two pullets started producing eggs in about five months, laying about one a day. And since I’ve moved in, I’ve only bought eggs from a grocery store once. It’s been awesome.
Since my husband took a new job, which required an hour-long commute every morning, the feeding duties fell to me. I would wake up and, after turning on the Keurig, head outside to feed the hens. I was hesitant to pet them — chickens do peck, after all! — but over time, we both got more comfortable with each other, and our relationship took flight.
I’d save up scraps from dinner — they love cucumbers! — and give it to them as snacks. Even the dogs got curious, sometimes joining me inside the pen as I fed them.
They were clearly a part of our family.
But as it happens, the hens started slowing down. They stopped laying one a day, and eventually, they stopped producing any at all. We had been anticipating this day for awhile and figured we’d find a no-kill shelter for them.
But we didn’t expect it to happen this soon.
My mother-in-law found a chicken sanctuary in ‘Aiea that would take the hens, no problem. So we scheduled a time to drop off the chickens and a bag of feed. We felt good about the idea that ‘Ekahi and ‘Elua would live out their last years in a safe, tranquil place.
Of course, this was before we got there.
Tranquil isn’t the word I’d used to describe the sanctuary. In fact, sanctuary isn’t a word I’d use, either. It was an open dirt lot surrounded by trees with a gate that didn’t close and wild chickens wandering around everywhere. On the side was a cage with small, angry dogs and a gaggle of geese. Separated, of course.
While the chickens there looked happy and healthy, our two were shell-shocked. They stood there, their beaks open, stunned and scared.
My husband urged them to drink water and walk around, but to no avail. The hens weren’t happy.
With tears in my eyes, I drove away, telling myself it would be OK. Why in the world am I crying over two chickens? This is crazy!
Turns out, my husband was a bit choked up, too. He didn’t feel good about leaving the chickens at this makeshift sanctuary, clearly unhappy and scared. He felt it was his responsibility to take care of them to the end, that they had given us eggs every day for almost three years. The least we can do is provide them a safe and happy environment to live out their last few years.
So we turned around, found the birds, and brought them home. Where they belonged.
I realized this is why I love my husband so much: his compassion overflows and inspires me to be a better person. I mean, who goes back and picks up chickens — after dropping them off! — that don’t lay eggs anymore?
And you know what?
They started laying again!
I debate about whether to eat them or not. I mean, we did stress the poor hens. Then again, my mom said I should crack them open and see if there are golden coins in there.
In the end, we did the right thing — what felt right to us, anyway. And I’m happy the hens are back. Sure, they will eventually stop laying eggs, but they’ll always be part of our family.