Last week we said goodbye to a longtime friend: our 10-year-old hen, Goldie.

The passing represented the end of an era. The geriatric chicken was the sole survivor from an original batch of chicks we bought a decade ago.

Having grown up with chickens and chicks around my childhood home in Newburgh, I had been waiting a long time to have a little flock of my own. So when we bought our own old farmhouse in 2000, I started plotting. I visited a friend who recently had put up a chicken coop and took notes on the layout and design. Next, I started researching hatcheries and chicken breeds. I pored over books about backyard chickens, their needs and potential ailments. I weighed the pros and cons and decided it was only a matter of time.

My husband, on the other hand, told me early and often that he had no intention of becoming a farmer. He likes to keep an extremely tidy dooryard, and spends long hours cutting the lawn and trimming around the house, mailbox and outbuildings. Surely the idea of chickens free ranging on our property was not his idea of paradise. Personally, I couldn’t think of a better way to beautify the place.

Undeterred, I waited until spring and went online. Sure enough there was a sale on chicks from a hatchery in the Midwest. They would mail the chicks directly to us, and I could choose from a wide variety of birds. There was only one catch: we had to order a minimum of 25. This was more than we had planned on, wanted or needed. But just like with lemons, when life gives you chickens, you make, well, never mind.

Perusing the hatchery website, I started to build my backyard flock. Adding chicks of all colors, shapes and sizes to my shopping cart, I finally got up to 25 and specified we wanted only one rooster, and 24 hens. Wonderful. As I neared the end of the process, I found there was a sale and I was entitled to four “bonus chicks.” Great, just what we needed.

My husband walked in just as I was finishing up the order, which I had intended to save for future use. I showed it to him, and he said something along the lines that he “forbid” me to do it. I raised an eyebrow. Really? It was forbidden? I raised my typing finger dramatically over the “enter” key and he repeated his command. Don’t ask me what possessed me, but I decisively hit that key.

I’m not going to lie, I regretted the move the moment I did it. A wave of panic actually came over me, as I saw the look of absolute horror on his face and the weight of my decision hit me.

What was I thinking? What had I done?! And how soon were they coming?

Reading the fine print, I found they would be at the post office in just a week or so. As the old saying goes, “The chicks were in the mail.”

My hubby got cracking on renovating the coop and fencing in a large hen pen and I counted the days until they arrived. Finally, the post office called on the weekend and said they were waiting for me. I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off when I heard the happy news.

“Wait, where are my keys?” I chirped. “Should I take your pickup truck? How big do you think the box is? Twenty-nine chickens? Oh my gosh! I guess I should take the truck.”

Grabbing my mate’s keys, I sped to the post office, imagining the box might be too large to fit in the back seat. I marveled as a compact carton full of life was handed over to me. The peeping was deafening.

Afraid of what I’d find inside, I never even peeked into the box, for fear there were crushed, trampled and suffocated chicks at the bottom. I put it into the back seat of the oversized pickup and carefully drove home with my precious cargo.

Back at the house, I had my husband open it. We were stunned to find 29 perfectly healthy baby chicks peeping up a storm.

We were smitten right away, but quickly realized we had five roosters —- the one I had ordered and the four “bonus chicks.” Gee, thanks. Before long, they started to crow and fight, so we found homes for all but the one rooster we had picked out ourselves. He was a buff cochin, a golden beauty named Pascal. And his favorite girl was a gentle and lovely buff Orpington we dubbed Goldie.

Before long, precious Goldie got broody. She sat on her nest and before long, she and Pascal successfully hatched four babies of their own. Goldie went on to be an excellent mother hen and pet. Pascal died a few years back and though I know Goldie missed him, she kept going, outlasting every other chicken from that batch of chicks. Most lived six or seven years, but that yellow hen was our golden oldie.

Last fall, we noticed she was having a hard time getting around on her tired legs. But she still navigated the ramp, pecked at bugs and treats in the pen, and seemed to enjoy life. Once the chickens moved indoors for the winter, she couldn’t get up on the roost at night with our rooster and his two young girlfriends. Instead, she would nestle into the shavings on the floor and seemed content.

One day last week, I went to the coop with water and treats and was not surprised to see Goldie asleep on the floor, but noticed the current rooster (her son) seemed to be standing guard over her.

Looking more closely, I saw she was not asleep. She had passed. I called her name and tossed some cracked corn. Nothing.

Then it hit me. This could be a teachable moment for my daughter, who fortunately has yet to experience death up close.

“Lizzie,” I told my 6-year-old. “I have some sad news. Our sweet Goldie has died.”

She looked confused. Understandable. I was sure she was trying to absorb the shock and gravity of the loss. Then she cocked her head.

“Who is Goldie?” she asked.

“Who is Goldie?! She’s our chicken, that’s who!” I couldn’t believe she was serious, and was so annoyed. Then I suggested she might want to see her and say goodbye.

“She’s very peaceful,” I reassured her. “She just looks like she put her little head down and went to sleep. Would you like to see her one last time?”

“Nah,” she said, turning back to her TV show.

So I paid our respects to Goldie, and my husband disposed of her, I’m not sure how. We have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when our chickens die.

RIP, Goldie. You were a good hen.

And the beat goes on.