How The Hen House Turns: A Day In Our Lives

How The Hen House Turns: A Day In Our Lives
By Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

A beautiful blue-sky day this morning. Bobbi goose has made a lovely round nest in the Hen House and is sitting there with her neck stretched out in the straw. I hope she’s just laying an egg.

Though she normally honks at me while I’m in the pen doing household chores, today on her nest, she doesn’t even flinch as I freshen up the straw. (You know what that means – a long-handle plastic cooking spoon and gloves to toss the clotted straw out.)

Meanwhile, in the Hen House pen, Lucy has been grazing on a handful of alfalfa with turkey, nudging Gwendolyn chicken away when she ventures too close. Gwendolyn just hopped up on the abandoned miniature cabin in the pen and is looking up here at me, where I am sitting by the stock tank.

When Gwendolyn tires of Lucy’s bullying, she will hop the inner-pen fence and hang out with the three Khaki Campbell chickens. For some reason I haven’t fathomed, they give way to her.

The miniature Mallards have just finished their bath in the stock tank. I had to fill it this morning. Last night the local deer herd drank it down to a small puddle in the bottom. The streams in the canyon are not running. The deer are feeling the drought. Thank goodness they didn’t wake the dogs.

Now Ms. Ritz and Kiebler will slowly graze back to their pen. It won’t take them much longer. In this drought, the grass is only a few inches high and there are no bugs. Of course, there never have been very many.

Lucy is honking at Kiebler, the small duck, who is escorting Ms. Ritz back to their section of the pen. Kiebler’s testosterone level is up now, so he will nip at my ankles as I go down to shut their back door. Some day he’s going to trip me up.

He was gentile and polite all winter, but now he goes out of his way to pick a fight with me or the big duck, Mr. Campbell, through the fence. In his enthusiastic attack on his rival in the pen yesterday, he scrambled half way up the eight-foot fence and took a pretty good fall. Men!

Oops! Here he comes back up the hill with Ms. Ritz, probably for another swim. No. They’ve decided to look for goodies in the south garden.

While I was spading there once, Ms. Ritz ate so many worms she fell over. I had to leave some in the ground.

When I approach her to suggest they return to their pen, she gives me a look that says “So where’s your shovel?” She gets right under it when I dig, such is her appetite for worms. Trusting duck. I show her my open hands. “No shovel today.” She turns away and heads downhill. As I close their door to their pen, she nods her head and I nod back, a friendly recognition I have not entirely decoded yet.

With Kiebler contained, I can let Gwendolyn chicken and the others out into the half-acre yard. If I stay here writing for long, the chicken will come to me for a two-minute snuggle before she gets bored and goes off to see what she can find.

It’s a nice place to sit, here on the bench beside the stock tank, writing, watching the birds or the clouds skitter by in the blue up above. My excuse is to help the dogs bird-sit. The hawks are feeding their young next door. They have taken three adult chickens in the history of the Hen House. The miniature ducks would be easy pickings.

Editor’s note: Dr. Neeper is an avid student of sustainability, steady‐state economics and the impact of cosmology on issues of science and religion. She and her husband Don Neeper live in Los Alamos with a friendly menagerie of dogs, fish and fowl.


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