A few of years ago my dog Jack and I were taking a wee walk before bed – don’t worry, this is not a dog story; it’s about a chicken. Oh, and it was Jack that was gonna wee, not me. Jack is smiling at my small attempt at humor.
It was about midnight, a very dark night with no moon. Jack has pretty bad eyesight.
He sees okay when he is up close, like this:
Because his eyes are bad he alerts when he sees anything move, anything at all. It can be a leaf, a squirrel, my neighbor’s homemade wind chimes or even a plastic bag. When he started tugging at the leash trying to get to something on the ground I held him back saying, “Jack, that’s nothing. It’s only a plastic bag.” But no, Jack insisted that he be allowed to check it out. No, Jack, I don’t want to investigate your dumb plastic bag. I’m the grown up and I am smarter than a dog; I will show you that you are wrong.
So I gathered up a handful of pine straw and, taking careful aim, I chucked he pine straw at the plastic bag…and the bag clucked.
White plastic bags do not make clucking noises, not even at midnight on a moonless night. My status as the smartest one in the family is in trouble. Well, dang. Paint my face red and call me a stop sign. It’s a chicken! My dog found a chicken. Good boy, Jack, you get a biscuit. Maybe I should get my own eyes checked?
Since I was positive the chicken belonged to my across the street neighbor who has chickens and roosters, I gathered up the chicken and, it being midnight and all, I had to find a place to keep the chicken for the night so I could return it safe and sound to my neighbor. Note to self: The neighbor wakes up early. Remember to set an alarm so you can catch him before he leaves for work.
Not having a chicken coop of my own the only solution I could think of was to stash it for the night in my zippy plastic greenhouse. This little greenhouse was brand new, just assembled and never had a single plant inside, just rows of neatly stacked plastic pots.
The chicken should be fine in there for just one night; I’ll return the chicken to my neighbor in the morning.
Well, that was the plan anyway…but…keep reading.
Since my neighbor is Latino, I used my very best ‘Spanglish’ and some hand gestures to inquire if he had lost a chicken, a white chicken. He said, “No tengo gallinas blanco.”
What did he say?
He said he has no white hens.
So I asked him whose chicken it was? At least I hope that’s what I asked, my Spanish is not all that perfect. Oh my, he got this funny look on his face, kind of like this…
…Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but he did have a funny look on his face. He used his right index finger to point directly at my heart to indicate that it was my chicken. Out of respect for my readers who may be vegetarians, I will not tell you what he suggested I do with ‘my’ new chicken but he made a gesture using that same finger across his throat.
Great, just great. I carried the chicken home. I was now the proud owner of a single chicken and no chicken coop in sight. This will require some thought. Guess the chicken can continue to stay in the greenhouse while I make plans to build something more appropriate. The zippy plastic greenhouse is a good temporary coop, right? I mean, how long could it take to build a little house for a chicken? Building a coop for one chicken should be easy.
I wondered if she will ever lay eggs?
How do you know it’s a girl chicken?
Each day I checked and each day…nothing. Lots of poop. No eggs. Lots of flies wanted to join the party. I bought one of the long sticky things – you know, the kind that when you try to feed and water chickens in the morning before coffee when you are half asleep you end up with dead flies and sticky tape in your hair?
Yep, that kind. Don’t worry; I have scissors and shampoo.
Okay, Plan B.
Yes, much better and safer for my hair.
You may think that since I wasn’t finding any eggs that maybe it was a boy chicken?
Or maybe I didn’t know what an egg looked like? Let’s review what I know about eggs.
Look at this egg…
Here, look more closely. That is an Anole lizard egg.
…when it hatches it will look like this:
and it will learn to hunt while hiding in the Clematis. One of the little Anole lizards would one day grow up to become a daily Banner on All Things Plants which now has a new name…The National Gardening Association.
That image is a bit small. Go here to get a better look:
This is not an egg. It’s a tiny yellow, slightly overripe Asian Eggplant.
This is not an egg either. It’s an Ichiban Eggplant – gosh what a fun word – Ichiban.
Hmm, here are some eggs.
I found these in a nest inside the old metal watering can, a gift from Liz; She is an accomplished knitter; this is Liz modeling a Lillehammer sweater.
Liz is my plant friend; we met via The Savannah FreeCycle Network. Soon after we met she sold her house and moved ‘back home’ to Oregon, but before she left she gave me all of her compost…lots, and lots, and lots of her compost. All I had to do was carry it from her backyard out to my car and take it home. Easy, right? I was digging and hauling compost for three days in a row. Whew. Big job.
Liz also gave me several of her garden tools, a lovely huge garden cart, and taught me to pronounce Or-a-gun properly. Thank you, Liz!!
Okay, back to the eggs in the watering can. They are not chicken eggs; they are the eggs of a Carolina Wren. See the watering can?
The Carolina Wrens thought this looked like a good place to make a nest. Turns out they had good judgment. They raised a fine family of little ones. It’s really difficult to take a photo of a bird on a nest built inside a watering can. They should teach this stuff in school. The birds were a bit camera shy and they sure were noisy – but they were much too fast for my digital camera to capture an image. They fledged and flew and their offspring live nearby.
These are chicken eggs with googly-eyes, but not exactly what I was hoping to find from my chicken.
Speaking of googly-eyes, one day when you have nothing better to do or don’t feel like weeding your garden or cleaning the toilet, check out the Saturday Night Live skit “Indoor Gardening Tips from A Man Who’s Very Scared of Plants” starring Christopher Walken:
Oh wait; I just remembered something. I used to teach classes so people could learn to make a type of decorated Ukrainian Easter Eggs called Pysanky. They look like this…
I would be very surprised if any chicken were to lay eggs like this. Well, what I mean to say that yes, a chicken was involved but that was before the candle was lit and the wax and dye were applied. People still exchange Pysanky eggs at Easter similar to exchanging a greeting card – don’t tell Hallmark about this or they might try to corner the Pysanky market. Remember to buy stock in the Hallmark Company if this ever happens.
While I was preparing to teach the class I did my homework, studied, made practice eggs and read several books. One of the books was by Johanna Luciow.
In the book, there was a reference to an article in the April 1972 National Geographic Magazine. Wow, finally a reason to be thankful that I was a pack rat. Yes, I had every National Geographic since time began, right there in my front closet. A reason to be thankful that I was raised by parents who survived The Great Depression and taught me to NEVER throw anything away. Not ever.
Speaking of Easter, ever wonder what the Easter Bunny does in his off-season? He must do something to support himself during the offseason, right? Or maybe his wife hands him a ‘honey-do’ list – Do you mean a ‘Bunny-Do’ list? – so he can catch up on home repairs.
Speaking of holidays, here is my Holiday Cactus. When I bought it at Lowe’s from the clearance rack it looked nothing like this and only cost one dollar.
Success! An egg! First egg from Henrietta and it’s a beauty.
Okay, I have to be honest. The fine-looking egg in the photo is not the very first egg. Grab a cup of tea and get comfortable; I will explain.
For days and days I checked looking for eggs…well, I guess I already told you that, right?… and no eggs. I was ready to give up on this girl or is it a boy?. Each day I brought food, lots of food, and water, lots of water which she or he happily spilled. At least the chicken had clean feet. On good days she or he was allowed to play in the garden and hunt for insects. Each night I convinced her – Yes, I know, she/he, got it. – convinced her or him to go into the plastic zippy greenhouse to be safe for the night. Yes, I still planned on building a coop. Keep your feathers on. Then one evening the chicken refused to go into the little greenhouse. The chicken was hiding under the house.
Okay, technically it’s not a house. I live in a metal box on wheels. It’s a 1965 Statler model mobile home that used to keep me warm and dry but now does neither. Some nights I thought I would be better off sleeping in the zippy plastic greenhouse with the chicken. If you think I am exaggerating, look for yourself. Front view and back view of my ‘house’. Even after I cleaned it up a bit it only looked this good…the ‘house’ didn’t get any newer or any larger.
It’s still a metal box except now it is partially hidden by a Rubbermaid Tool Shed, and the viewer’s eye is drawn to the new patio blocks.
Can we please get back to the story? Okay, back to the story…the chicken was under the ‘house’.
He or she wouldn’t come out from under the trailer. I tossed a few things at the chicken in an attempt to get him or her out in the open, a stick, a rake, a broom, a hoe. Nope. I learned two things:
One – I have a bad aim at throwing things under a house. Wasn’t any good at skipping rocks on the lake either.
Two – the chicken would not budge. Stubborn chicken.
Seemed that I had no choice but to pretend I was a raw Army recruit and crawl on my belly under the house, er, trailer to retrieve him or her. This was my view under the trailer…guess it hasn’t been cleaned in a while. Probably not since 1965.
I kept my butt down to avoid prying eyes, bird droppings and sniper fire, slowly inched forward on my elbows and toes…gradually making progress, praying there were no Black Widow spiders crawling with me… or on me.
Hold on a minute…what is this?
I blurted out an expletive.
Hey, don’t laugh; that’s a real cereal product, wow!
In a shallow indentation in the sand under the trailer, there were one, two, three….more than 18 eggs!
My vision was blurry. I shook my head, squeezed my eyes shut and looked again…
Oh, sorry. My eyes are fine; it’s the photo that is blurry.
No wonder she…SHE…SHE didn’t want to go into the zippy greenhouse. She had made herself a nest in the sand under my house and wanted to hatch her eggs. Good girl, you get a biscuit, er, some crumbles, some mealworms. So she’s a girl. A female chicken. A gallina. Wait until I tell my neighbor! Aren’t you gonna tell the chicken that, without a rooster, those eggs are not gonna hatch?
I will save myself some embarrassment and not describe what I must have looked like to the neighbors as I crawled back out from under the trailer. The reality of it is that I actually had to crawl back under the trailer with a bowl to carry out the eggs and a camera to document my amazing discovery.
Not knowing how old some of the eggs might be, I put them in a bowl of water and discarded any that were floaters; cleaned the good ones with a vinegar/water bath and here is what the good eggs looked like.
Note to self: The float test is not a reliable way to know if an egg is safe to eat. For a really long and intelligent explanation, head over to a blog called The Chicken Chick here: https://the-chicken-chick.com/egg-float-test-indicates-approximate/
That was only the beginning…Jack and I enjoyed fresh eggs almost every day. Sometimes the chicken would skip a day and there would be no egg. But then again some days she outdid herself and produced a double-yolk egg. I was impressed with the chicken’s talent and gave her much praise along with some crushed eggshells.
Note to self: The heat was too high when cooking that egg.
Wow, I can remember the first time I ever saw a double yolk egg. When I was twenty-one I was on a camping trip with friends, we climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire…First, we camped at Great Gorge, in the morning we climbed via the Tuckerman’s Ravine trail and came down via the Jewell trail…best walk in my life! Note: I did not know at the time that this is one of the most difficult and dangerous hikes, duh!! The following morning we stopped at a small local restaurant for breakfast. Naturally, I ordered eggs. The locals went crazy. Why are they excited that I ordered eggs; doesn’t everyone eat eggs for breakfast? Seems that it had been a slow day so the local boys were making bets on which egg would contain a double yolk. Yep, I should have put some money down because my egg was the winner. A double yolk egg, the first one in my life.
Okay, since this is now officially a hen and not a rooster, I planned to keep her. Of course, she needs a name. I asked my daughter to suggest a good name. She’s good at picking names; remember? She gave my dog Jack his name. My daughter got a sly look on her face and said, “Henrietta”. What? Don’t you like it? It’s a good name for a chicken, plus it lets me take another trip down memory lane…
When I was very young, age 5 through 9, I had two best friends; they were both named Holly. One Holly was a Girl Scout, owned a jackknife, could climb a tree, play the piano while singing Pogo songs, hatch Preying Mantids by the thousand in her bedroom, got me started at oil painting lessons at the YWCA, and had a marionette named Henrietta. The other Holly took dancing lessons, had a Lieutenant Colonel for a father and a mother who reminded me of Zsa Zsa Gabor, had a parakeet named Petey, and had a pet chicken named Henrietta. Can you believe it? What are the chances of that? Two girls so completely different yet both were Holly and each had a Henrietta of their very own. Okay, back to my story…where was I? Is there any tea left in the pot? This long story is making me thirsty.
After a bit of tender loving care, a lot of chicken feed and several Rube Goldberg attempts to keep the water bowl from getting overturned, finally, Henrietta became a good looking, healthy chicken. Here she is having a lovely day out in the garden.
Henrietta’s gonna need a coop and it’s a cinch I won’t be asking the Easter Bunny to help build it. I shall build it myself. Will it look like this?
It will have a door that is secure and metal cans to keep the food and bedding clean, safe, dry and free from vermin.
There needs to be a chicken ladder so the girls can walk into their bedroom and nest area and a whisk broom to keep things tidy.
I’ll need to make a nest box…
No, no, no. Wrong! That is not a nest box. It’s not even a call box. Plus it’s the wrong color to be the TARDIS.
This is a nest box. It may be simple in design but it will work better than a portable toilet when it’s time to gather the eggs.
I will build a chicken coop SO amazing that people will flock to see my flock!!
Sounds to me like someone had a little too much ‘tea’.
Well, that’s pretty much the story of the chicken. We had no idea where Henrietta came from or how old she was when Jack found her at midnight so long ago. After being a good, hard-working chicken, keeping us company in the garden and providing us with eggs for almost two years, Henrietta went to Chicken Heaven early one morning. She was a good old girl and will be missed. I had a tear in my eye when I had to buy eggs at the grocery store.
Hey, wait a feather-plucking minute. Why is the title ‘Chicken again’??? Where is the ‘again’ part?
Walking at midnight with my dog…can you believe it???
What are the chances of this happening twice in a lifetime? We found another chicken! Here, look for yourself…
Since I already know that my across-the-street neighbor has no white hens this one must belong to the people who live in the house near the stop sign. I’ll be right back…have some more tea while you wait. I’ll just pop down to the corner to ask if they misplaced a chicken…
Thanks for waiting for me. I just walked back from the stop sign. Not good news. The people in the corner house said the chicken I found is not their chicken. They were kind enough to give me a bag of chicken food for ‘my’ new chicken. Oh, great…here we go again. I am once again the proud owner of a single chicken.
I only wish Henrietta hadn’t been so hard on equipment. All that’s left of the original plastic zippy greenhouse is… Well, look at the “before” and “after” photos of that greenhouse:
This year I have a new plastic zippy greenhouse.
There is no way I want to see a chicken demolish another greenhouse. She (or he) Oh, here we go again with the he/she thing! Oh, hush! He/she will not live in the new zippy greenhouse. But I’ve got to put this chicken somewhere. Oh, I remember. At the Savannah plant swap in October, someone was kind enough to give me their old chicken coop. You may recognize this small coop from my blog about the feral rabbits. I used this little coop for one of the feral rabbits that we managed to trap and re-home. The small coop was a safe place to keep a baby bunny safe for the night as he was getting adopted in the morning by a nice man who lives out in the country.
Just for the day, I put the chicken into the old second-hand chicken coop. Guess it’s time to dust off those plans and get to work building that perfect chicken coop that I never managed to build for Henrietta. Just think of it, my dog Jack will get again get some eggs. And I get a new avatar!
Update April 2015.
The ‘new’ chicken named ‘Henrietta the 2nd’ turned out to be a boy, a rooster, a loud and therefore illegal animal in my area. So I found him a new home. He went to live with the kind folks who own Economy Feed & Seed in Savannah, Georgia. If you are ever in the area, stop in to visit them; they have a great selection of garden decor and lots of good old-time service and knowledge. Oh, and just wait until you see their chicken coop. Wow! Here is their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EconomyFeed/
Update May 2015.
Since I no longer have a chicken, the small second-hand chicken coop was given away the other day to the Latino lady around the corner. (Shhh – Don’t tell anyone but she’s one of the people who released the rabbits and thus should take 50% responsibility for creating our feral rabbit problem). She had gotten a new baby chicken so I gave her the old coop. Twenty-four hours later I went to check on her little chicken and…it had been killed by one of the feral cats. She informed me that the same feral cat also has been killing baby rabbits. Can you imagine that! Hmm, guess what goes around comes round after all.
Update June 2015
After fencing their backyard and reinforcing the little chicken coop, my Latino neighbor got a new chicken and a rooster. I will not be the one to tell her that roosters are illegal here. Today I went to the feed store and brought home a 50-pound sack of feed for them; that should last them a while.
Update Jan 30 2017
The little chicken coop that I got second hand and gave to my Latino neighbor has now moved to the next trailer over. A new Latino family is using the coop. They are the 4th owners of the chicken coop. Some things are built to last.