Books, Publishing, and the Creative Life

Posts tagged ‘chickens’

A Mother’s Day Chicken Tale

My last post on Greta the hen and her secret nest brought a flurry of responses to my email box.  People seem to like chickens.  Who knew?

Sebastian wants to know if I eat Greta’s daily egg.  Well, yes.  She doesn’t seem to mind, since she isn’t trying to hatch chicks (and that won’t happen, because a stray dog killed our rooster, Harley, which is another story for a later blog).  The fresh eggs are wonderful fried, poached, or boiled for egg salad.

But Sebastian is an attorney, so I’m beginning to worry.  Will we be slapped with a lawsuit: Greta versus NorLightsPress for Unauthorized Tampering with Nest and Poaching of Eggs?

Diana  says, “In every office there is an old biddy (not necessarily “old” actually) who keeps an eagle eye (chicken eye?) on you because they just know you’re up to something they probably won’t approve of. Greta is the biddy in her “office.” Would love to hear more about “the ladies”!

Ah, yes.  The office biddy.  And let’s not forget the henpecked husband.  Chickens sometimes get a bad rap, but I’m here to fix that issue.  It doesn’t take much encouragement for me to tell more chicken stories, so stay tuned for updates on the hens.

Here’s a story for Mother’s Day

When we lived in Providence, Utah, our neighbor Norman Leonhardt kept over 50 free range chickens he let wander through the neighborhood.  Most of these free spirits slept on the trees in our back yard.  We named them, fed them, and I studied their social life, which was surprisingly intricate and sophisticated.  Raccoons, skunks, foxes, magpies, and stray dogs kept their numbers down, but the industrious hens kept hatching new eggs.

One spring, a white hen appeared with a single chick—a baby she obsessively nurtured and protected until it grew feathers and turned into another white hen just like her. This was a classic case of Failure to Launch: theWhite hen youngster never left home. Mother and daughter spent all their time together, and even the finest rooster on the block couldn’t separate them for long.

Chick The next spring, the two hens produced a clutch of eggs and took turns sitting on the nest. Hidden inside Norman’s equipment shed under an old hay baler, the nest was dry and concealed from predators.  Eventually, the proud mamas showed up outside our door with a single yellow chick. The two hens shared custody, and I’m sure neither of them cared whose egg had hatched. Never has a baby chicken received more care and attention. They clucked and strutted all day long, teaching their chick how to survive.

One the evening before Mother’s Day, I stepped onto the balcony and noticed something unusual in Norman’s hayfield. His water turn had started and a dozen five-foot tall sprinklers were running full tilt. They would water the grass with streams of mountain spring water for twelve hours. Norman’s geese were out there enjoying the water, but all the other livestock had moved away.  Something under one of the sprinklers caught my attention.

“It’s a piece of trash blown off from the road,” I told myself.  But a little voice kept nagging at me.  When the feeling wouldn’t go away, I reluctantly went outside, unlocked the gate, and sloshed through the spray, soaking my clothing and shoes within a few seconds. The cold water stung my cheeks and ran in rivulets down my back. These sprinklers meant business.

I bent over and ran through the worst of it, right to the base of the sprinkler. There I found the two white hens, huddled together and soaked to the skin. They were trembling from the cold and I doubt they would’ve lasted through the night.

I couldn’t understand why they stayed in the water instead of running to safety.

When I scooped a hen under each arm, out popped the yellow chick—dry and safe beneath their bodies. Knowing the water would crush their baby, the hens were willing to sit for hours and possibly die under the sprinkler in order to protect it.  And the two of them stayed together, though one could have done the job alone.

I call this a fine example of mothering, and it’s just one more reason I love chickens–and Mother’s Day.  Mothers day


Do You Have a Secret Nest?

Greta the araucana hen

Every afternoon Greta the hen slips out of our chicken run, lays a single egg, and then returns to join her less adventurous sisters inside the pen.

I know Greta goes to her secret place inside a bag of pine shavings.  Every day she leaves one smooth, pale green egg in the private nest, and then returns to the coop.  When I turn the hens loose in the afternoon Greta pretends she hasn’t already been out, and I go along with it. I’m playing “don’t ask, don’t tell” with a chicken.

Yesterday evening I was cleaning the coop while the hens were free.  As the other ladies picked over the new mulch in my flower bed, Greta stayed to watch me work around her nesting area, following my every move with beady her eyes.  Her concern was obvious: She didn’t want me messing with her spot. She suspected I would be moving the pine shavings in EGGher nest.  This was a problem, because I needed the pine.  I ended up using shredded paper instead of pine shavings in the coop, so Greta wouldn’t be upset.

Don’t we all need a secret place and the time to go there? I often find time to walk in the woods bordering our land. We’re lucky to have miles and miles of federal forest behind our house, where I can ponder life and find treasures like bird nests, turtle shells, wildflowers, and unusual rocks.

Here’s what author Gin Getz says about her forest in the San Juan Mountains: This is my intimate observation post.  My walking meditation.  Where I go to get inspired, where poems are born, and new stories.  And where I see the trees.  Up close and personal.  One on one.  In my face.  At my feet.  Against my back.  For often my walk is interrupted. Sitting on the carpet of freshly fallen needles, my back against a fat old trunk. Gunnar catches up, or rather, back tracks to find me, and sits beside me, on guard.  I look up through the empty branches and see the sky.

Of course people in the city have secret spots: a favorite coffee house, a comfy chair, the porch, the back steps, a park, a balcony, and a thousand other places where the spirit can expand, or contract, as need be.

Chicken 4We do need secret places, no matter where we live – even if that space is only inside our minds.  I think our creative spirits need to go out into the world and come back again to a quiet place where we belong to no one but ourselves. We should be able to say, “I won’t be available for an hour. I’m going to sit on my nest.”

The Color of the WildRead more from Gin Getz in her new book

The Color of the Wild: An Intimate Look at Life in an Untamed Land.



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