Last Sunday I went to the market. I had planned on just buying fruits and vegetables, but then I saw them. Sandwiched in-between the bags of rice and the piles of tangerines was a corral filled with fluffy pint-sized chickens of all different colors bouncing around from left to right. I walked over to get a closer look and the woman, who was selling them, without saying a word, handed me a small copper colored chick. The chick looked up at me with a sweet expression as it sat calmly in my hands. “Two for ten soles”, the woman interjected. “You can take this one and a mate.” I paused and thought for a moment before responding. It might be nice to have a couple of little chicks to take care of… I could raise them as pets and keep them in the backyard… I looked up at the woman and said, “Ok. Give me the nicest chick you have, I’m going to keep them as pets.” With a smile on her face the woman carefully selected a straw colored chick and handed it to me. I stood there, holding both chicks in my hands and contemplated. A few moments later, not being able to bare their cuteness any longer I sighed and said “Ok I’ll take them!” I handed the woman ten soles as she placed my new pets into a box and we were on our way.
When I got back to the house, I found my host brother in the living room, anxiously looking at the box I held in my hands. I smiled and signaled for him to follow me outback where I revealed the contents of the box. “They’re beautiful!” he exclaimed with a big smile plastered on his face. “We have to build a house for them!” And with that he took off and began to collect materials for the chick’s house.
Thirty minutes later, I walked outback to find the chicks resting inside their house that my host brother had constructed for them. He had used his grandmother’s shaw for their bed and part of a slipcover for curtains to give them some privacy. He assured me he had permission. The chicks seemed very content in their new home. “What do you think we should name them?” I asked him. He studied the straw colored chick for a moment before answering. “Girasol (Sunflower), because she’s yellow like the flower!”
“Ok. Girasol it is” I said. “We can call her ‘Sol’ or ‘solcito’ for short.
“What about Henny Penny for the other one?” I suggested. “Yes! I like it!” he said with a big grin on his face. And with that we fed Henny Penny and Girasol their lunch and left them to rest and get acclimated to their new home.
That night was bit chillier that usual so I packed Girasol and Henny Penny back in their box and brought them up to my room where it was warmer. Before turning off the light, I gave them a “pre-bed snack” of ground cornmeal.
I was abruptly awakened very early the next morning by chirping and the fluttering of wings. I opened my eyes to find Girasol and Henny Penny perched on the stool by my bed, looking at me curiously, cocking their head from side to side. Ughhhh I grumbled as I got out of bed and returned them to their box. I brought them downstairs where I put them back in their corral and fed them before going back inside.
The next few nights were warmer so I decided to let Girasol and Henny Penny sleep outside in their corral. First thing in the morning I would go out to check on them and feed them breakfast.
Friday morning, however, I walked out to discover a sight I’ll never forget. “Bebeeees! Time to eat! ” I called as I walked towards their corral. Silence. As I got closer to their corral I noticed a scattering of brown and tan feathers. My eyes scanned the ground inside the corral frantically looking for the chicks. Then my gaze came to a halt. There in the middle of the corral, amidst the feathers, was a severed chicken foot. I gasped.
I stood there for a while staring that the small foot, not knowing what to do. Some kind of animal must have gotten into the corral in the middle of the night and killed them. I felt terrible. They had depended on me to keep them safe and I let them down.
I walked back inside feeling defeated. I told my host grandmother what I had found and she said that most likely a cat or a rat had gotten to them. Not long afterwards, my host niece ran inside shouting “Sarita! Your chickens are dead!!” “I know…” I told her, “Some kind of animal must have gotten to them”. “You can get new ones!” she exclaimed. Picking her up and giving her a hug I responded, “Ya no ya (No, not anymore)”.