<< Back to main

Driving Henny Penny

Posted 6/30/2012 3:06am by Jeanette Wilson.

The forecast of record-breaking heat made us hit the ground running this week.  Our Friday mornings almost always start like a football team leaving a huddle.  Without so much as a "Break!" yell, the three of us are out the door at daylight starting our to-do lists.

Anthony, our last teenager, is off to do the morning feeding.  We can hardly do without him - he is such a help.  Frank is off to start the irrigation pump.  I grab buckets to start picking before the sun gets too hot.  Soon, we spread farther out - Frank and Anthony off the farm to their jobs, and I am here to continue checking the pump, prepping for markets, and twice, when my phone sounds a reminder, to gather eggs.  

At 9 am, the temperature is still in the high 70's.  Hens are fine.  By 11 am, it is 90.  Hens are panting.  Not good.  Since chickens don't sweat, it can get dangerous pretty quickly.  

Pigs don't sweat either, but they ours have their own ways of coping.  Now no one ever said a chicken was smart, but pigs are actually pretty intelligent.  And challenging.  Earlier this week, I am not sure which smart hog figured it out, but at least one realized that if you could bite the hose which comes to the automatic waterer, you could get some refreshment.  Let's just say by the time Frank got to them that evening, they had a broken hose and a large swimming hole in their pen in the woods.  And their expressions said "Come on in, the water's fine. "

But today, the hens had no such break.  So at 11:30 I texted Frank that I was going to turn them out to hit the woods.  Now he had already set up some extra shade for them in their usual lot, but they were suffering, and I decided, if it was me, I would rather take my chances in the woods with a fox and Providence, than expire from panting to death.  I opened the door and tried to put a little plank up to give them a walkway down the foot drop.  Chickens can be really nervous about new things.  (There is a reason kids call each other "chicken"!)  I left them to figure it out.  

Late in the afternoon we were all back at the farm doing the evening chores.  I was still in the packing shed near the barn at the bottom of the hill.  Frank had parked the tractor, when I heard gravel crunching up on the hill and knew Anthony was flying down the drive one more time today.  

In my experience, teenagers doing less-than-pleasant chores are either mopers or hurryers.  Thankfully, Anthony is not a moper.  But in the pickup truck, hurrying can be overdone.  I heard him bounce over the cattle guard and literally slide past the henhouse on the hill above me of a distance of about 1/8 of a mile.

In a vague memory, I seem to recall the farm-kid pleasure of giving a car gas and feeling that cheap thrill of that gravel slide followed by some fish-tailing, and then a recovery to travel on down the road.  

(Under pressure I would neither confirm nor deny having had such an experience.)  Today, as his mom, I just threw up my hands and Frank heard me say " Honestly - That Boy!!  So Frank met him at the barn to discuss his "Leave no stone unturned" driving methods.  We weren't too hard on him and it was nice in the shade of the mulberry tree for a moment.  Then we spotted her.

One little hen.  How did she get here?  It was way too far down the hill for her to have wandered.  And no other hens had come along.  Hmmm.  Apparently, during the truck thrill ride- when I heard a bunch of squawks like when cowboys ride into a ranch in a John Wayne movie -  Henny Penny had gotten enough lift to sail into the back of the truck. Her friends probably saw her rise in a cloud of dust and disappear.  She was unexpectedly carried to the barn where she unloaded herself. Finding herself in  totally new surroundings, she just hung out with the folks she knew pretty well.  She was so tame, I picked her up and held her on my lap in the Explorer when I drove up the mountain to our home.  She nestled in my arm until we got to her henhouse address.  It was nice.  And boy does she have a story to share with the girls on the roost tonight.