Inspiring Kindness and Compassion towards Animals, Our Planet, and Each Other
Inspiring Kindness and Compassion towards Animals, Our Planet, and Each Other

The Original Lap Chicken

Our sweetheart, Norma Jeanne made her transition home last week. How do I thank someone enough who worked besides me to make this world a gentler place? How do I find enough words to express my love for the one who coined the phrase "lap chicken" and opened hundreds of hearts? How do I say goodbye to one of my best friends to whom I would turn when I needed a good hug or cuddle? She looked for me, she climbed into my lap, she stayed with me, she made me feel wanted and loved. I am so grateful to have known her, to have worked beside her, and to have had the opportunity to love her. Thank you Norma Jeanne, for everything!

Norma Jeanne was hatched in a science classroom. One of the families took her home but grew tired of caring for a chicken once she was grown. We were asked to take her in. Adopting her was the best thing we have ever done!

Norma Jeanne was shy at first and spent the first few months getting to know all the barn residents. Once she was accepted into the chicken clutch, she began to be curious about us. She would walk by us and follow us around, trying to figure us out. After a few months Norma Jeanne started hopping into our laps. She would wait for us to come into the barnyard and would follow us around. She would look up into our faces, with an inquisitive look on her face, as if she were asking us to sit down. When we would sit down she would immediately jump into our laps and snuggle into our arms.

One time I was curious to see just how long Norma Jeanne would stay with me if I just sat with her. So I cleared my schedule and sat with her in my lap for 45 minutes! I pet her, and groomed her, and kissed her pink head, and finally after almost an hour she was done and hopped off to get a drink of water.

Norma Jeanne was middle aged when we adopted her, and that was roughly seven years ago. Chickens generally have a life span of seven to ten years, so she had to be pretty ancient! Ten months ago she got very sick. We thought it might be her time to go, but with lots of TLC and Sun Chlorella to boost her immune system and make her strong, she miraculously recovered and gave us more time with her. We never took one minute of those ten months for granted and spent as much time with her as possible, cuddling with her every day. She had been doing great and was so full of life and vitality, but we knew it was not going to last forever. One morning we found her, eyes closed, head down, huddled in a little hunched over ball of feathers and my heart sank. I picked her up in my arms and held her. Deep inside I knew she was ready; her time with us had come to a close.

After all Norma Jeanne had done for us, I refused to let her suffer for even a moment, so after holding her close and warming her up in the sun, we took her to the hospital. The vet confirmed what we didn’t want to hear: she was making her transition and it was her time to go. The vet helped her out of her body easily and gently, so she could go comfortably and painlessly. As she took her last breaths I whispered gratitude in her ears, reliving memories with her and thanking her for everything she did for me and for so many people.

Walking her home was an honor and a privilege. I was strong for her. I let her go and put her first. On the long, lonely car ride home, however, I cried so many tears: tears of sadness, tears of emptiness, tears of feeling lost, and tears of gratitude all at the same time. It is unimaginable that she is not here in the barnyard anymore and I can’t see her little face peering up at me, asking me to sit down and cuddle even before I have opened the door to the barn, but I am also so thankful that she was here with me, with all of us. She could have been anywhere, in any barnyard, and she chose us! I will be forever grateful for the gift of knowing and loving Norma Jeanne!

Over the last 16 years of running The Gentle Barn we have noticed that when one great master leaves, there is always a successor in line to continue their great work. It is no great coincidence that Norma Jeanne crossed over just as Jasmine was making her transition into the barnyard. For the rest of Jasmine’s life, as she sits in people’s laps and opens their hearts to love, I will always think of Norma Jeanne and feel her with us!

Written by Ellie Laks
Founder, The Gentle Barn

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