My little flock of 21 laying hens (plus one rooster and a few guineas thrown in) are great fun. Certain individuals become dear friends and have conversations with me when I visit the hen house in the morning and evening to fill their feeding stations and gather eggs. We recently watched my favorite film “Cider House Rules” yet again, and it set me to thinking about some Chicken House Rules for my girls.
On this particular day, the girls are hopeful to go outdoors. They have been shut in for 24-hours due to a nasty spring snowstorm that dumped 6-8 inches of new snow. I believe we can relate to how they feel! A mix of Barred Rock, Ameraucana, Buff Orpington, Silver Lace Wyandotte, White Tufted Black Polish and Australorp round out a colorful display with personalities to match. They give us eggs of all colors and so delicious to eat!
Goldie, an Ameraucana, is typical of her breed. Shy and aloof, these girls like to roost on the highest outpost–in this case on top of the screen door that hangs ajar inside their ancient chicken house. It allows just enough space to perch for the night and typically there are three of them teetering on top of the door. I don’t know how they decide who gets to perch there – they must draw straws! A little bit wild, these girls can fly over the fence into the yard and do so regularly, which is discouraged. They have figured out there is a good snack in the garden shed where Oscar and TuTu reside and if I don’t lock the door, they clean up the bowl of dry kibble. Ameraucanas lay the most beautiful green and blue eggs and are very hardy. Some of the girls are getting old by chicken standards, but they keep on keepin’ on.
Luvena and her Barred Rock sister Vonna are two favorites. Inquisitive, gentle and always under foot, they like to carry on a conversation when you are close by. Luvena in particular is very gregarious and even as a chick, she would come to the door and peer up at me with great curiosity while the other chicks would huddle in the corner, afraid to come forward. You can be sure she will be giving me a piece of her mind about the Rules.
- Please don’t dribble in the food bowl if you have been drinking.
- Please don’t smoke on the roost or use candles.
- Please don’t go up on the roof if you’ve been drinking–especially at night!
- Please don’t take bottles with you up on the roof.
- Please don’t go outside to sleep if you are very hot or have been drinking.
- Please give your food order to the chicken house keeper before 7:00 a.m.
- There should be no more than half dozen chickens on the roof at one time.
- Please don’t sit in the nest too long–other chickens need to use them!
- Please do not break any eggs in the nest.
- Please do not leave messes in the nest – Cleanliness is next to Godliness!
The Rules are posted where everyone can see them, and the girls for the most part are trying to observe them. They know they will be rewarded with good groceries and lots of love. What more can a chicken ask? Nevertheless, I believe some of the commentary from the free-thinkers is rising to a Greek chorus. “What do they think we are, just dumb chickens?” “Who decided we need rules?” “We do the work around here, laying eggs right and left!””What about us?” “Are we just a basket of deplorables?””The sky is falling!”
The girls are assembling on the roosts for the night and will rise at dawn to begin a new day. Perhaps tomorrow we will have a Town Hall and discuss the Rules. Hopefully they will settle down before feathers begin to fly and the clucking chorus drowns out the voice of reason.
Heat lamps have come on and the girls cozy up to catch the warmth. And now, we close the day with “GOOD NIGHT ALL YOU PRINCESSES OF DRY CREEK, YOU QUEENS OF WYOMING!”