The Life You Save

I don’t want another chicken, but the flock belonging to my daughter’s friend was killed overnight. Eviscerated, to be more technical. A lone barred rock survived.

At cold twilight, I’m in Greensboro Bend with three 13-year-olds chasing the bird.

Chickens are flock animals, I remind myself — the very first thing I learned about chickens.

My daughter’s chickens are this hen’s new flock. In the dark, she holds the cardboard box containing a chicken in her lap. We drop off her other friend, and then it’s just the two of us and the chicken, following Route 15 twisting along the Lamoille River, going home. My daughter’s quiet, with her arms folded around the cardboard box.

When she was much younger, her father was involved in a political protest against an industrial project, beginning with a phone call when someone asked him to be arrested, traversing through the court system, a trial, another arrest, costing our family so much money and so much misery. I was infuriated at the hopeless, poorly conceived mess he had brought into our family, and how my daughters had borne so much of that failed struggle.

And yet, the better part of me knows we’re flock animals, too. My daughter must know this, too.

In the coop, one barred rock flaps at the new arrival and squawks angrily. My daughters and I stand back and watch. What will the flock do?

The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.

— Madeleine L’Engle


By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.


  1. You did good; there is nothing more sad than a lone chicken.

    The flock has a responsibility to the individual, but that runs both ways. The individual must always keep in mind how what they are doing impacts the flock.

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