Things in the old hen house have been a bit topsy-turvy lately.
One of the original five chickens, Jezzabelle, turned out to not be all hen, but half hen and half rooster. A hooster or roosten. We knew Jezz was different from the start as he/she had the spurs of a rooster on one leg. We also suspected that she wasn’t laying eggs and was never found on the nesting box. The final, irrefutable telltale came when we began hearing crowing in the morning.
In other words she was a henaphrodite.
Another of the original five, Hen Solo, began laying partially formed eggs. Instead of a shell they had a leathery coating that broke in the nest, making a yolky mess. This happened in spite of being fed the richest diet known in the animal kingdom.
It was time for them both to go, but how?
A decade ago, a buddy and I took care of a similar problem the old fashioned way: a stump, ax, boiling pot of water and singe flame. I brined the carcass for a day, boiled it for an afternoon, wrapped it in bacon and broiled it. I might as well have wrapped bacon around a rock. The meat was impossibly tough and tasteless.
This time around I declined to do the deed because I was helping care for the fowls. Chickens, it turns out, are actually fairly decent pets, a lot better than our two aloof cats. I’d gladly shoot, strangle or poison our snotty cats but Sabra won’t let me. On the other hand, I’ve grown fond of the chickens. It’s quite endearing the way they pop their heads up when you enter their space and come waddling over. How can you kill something that is happy to see you?
A friend, Tom, who grew up on a farm, offered to “off” the pair but there were some logistical problems. Not being a primary care giver, we figured he’d have a hard time catching the critters, and neither Sabra nor I could stomach the idea of hunting them down before hand and putting them on death row to await their demise.
We do have our henthics.
Then another friend, Curt, said he had a friend that had an Amish farmer friend in a nearby town who took in old hens so they could live out their lives in peace. Who would have ever thought, a, Henonite, henspice found through social henworking?
To restock, Sabra found a farmer about an hour away selling year-old hens, and soon our coop was back to full occupancy. Actually, since we subtracted two and added four we were now up to seven. As I’ve detailed earlier, we have the Hilton of hen houses but Sabra spent the next day upgrading anyways. An extra laying box was installed as well as extra roosting space.
An unexpected problem soon cropped up, however, as one of the hens proved to be an aerial escape artist. To date none of the other birds had figured out how to get over the six-foot fence that surrounds the compound, but this one hen proved to be quite the aviator. Sabra would look out the kitchen window, see the jail breaker and run out to bring the escapee home. It appeared the chicken was winning as my spouse was getting exhausted running from the kitchen, through the garage and out to the yard.
But never underestimate Sabra when it comes to her pets. She soon set up a chair and table in the yard overlooking the fence from whence the fowl was fleeing. It was the unmovable meeting the unstoppable. For a while it looked as if the unstoppable would prevail, but Sabra escalated and brought the bird into submission with a good wing clipping.
Poultrypeace at last.
Two of the new chickens were named after their predecessors, Jezzabelle and Hen Solo. I named one, a blonde, large breasted Buff Orphington, Dolly. Sabra named the other, the escape artist, Amelia.