She was surrounded by soft wood chip bedding as she quietly bled. She was dying.
“I love you,” we cooed in turn, “We all love you.”
“I love you too,” she cooed back.
Some of us were crying. “Coo coo coo…” we said. “It will be alright, my sister.”
After she slipped away, we still stood around her in a circle. Huddled close, feathers touching, we comforted one another. We kept vigil, sharing stories of her life. The way she hated leaving the coop on a snowy day. She always trailed behind the rest, muttering complaints. The way she lit up on sunny days, so happy to sunbathe and smile in the morning glow. All night we guarded to make sure she made it safely to the next world.
In the morning, one of our humans came. He opened the coop door and made soft human sounds. We knew he was sad, too. He loved her. We knew he loved us all.
He bent down, moving in to lift her body. We weren’t ready, and frantically squawked our protests. He nodded, and backed away.
That day we were mostly silent. Sometimes we would leave the coop to get food and water, usually one or two at a time. Mostly we stayed in the circle, warmed by our shared body heat. We watched over her and grieved.
When our human came back, some of us weren’t ready. But the others reassured them it was time. He lifted her body and was momentarily silhouetted by the glow of the light outside the open coop door. And then they were gone.
We stared for a while, still in silence. A few cried and others sighed mournfully.
“Let’s get some air,” I said.
And we all filed out of the coop, one by one into the sunlight. Life goes on.