How the Hen House Turns: Lucy Arrives at the Hen House

How the Hen House Turns: Lucy Arrives at the Hen House

Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

Lucy goose was raised by 4-H girls in Wyoming. When fully grown, she and two nestlings were adopted by my neighbor’s grandmother. During the first night in their new home, a Wyoming fox killed Lucy’s two companions. The next day Lucy found herself in a car with Grandma and my neighbor’s aunt, heading for New Mexico.

Since she was imprinted with human female company, Lucy greeted female humans with calm indifference. However, as we soon learned, she didn’t care for male humans. They deserved a stretched out neck and loud honking.

After she arrived next door, I heard a lot of honking. The neighbor’s boys were quite young in the summer of 2002. They couldn’t resist wanting to pet Lucy, who did not like being chased by these small males.

I guess the deciding factor was Lucy’s habit of forever banging on the glass sliding doors when the family was in the house.

“I’ve got to do something,” the neighbor commented one day over the back fence. “I guess I could put an ad in the paper.”

My heart leapt, picturing Grandma and Auntie driving this huge Embden goose all the way to New Mexico from Wyoming for safe keeping.

“I could take her,” I said. “I’ve got room in the Hen House.”

So it was that Lucy came under my care. She got along fine with the Hen House gang. When free in the yard, she would find me reading in a lawn chair and settle in to work over my tennis shoes, untie them, then search for anything else that might come undone, like the book I was trying to read.

Her favorite treat was honeydew melon rind, and that is how husband Don won her over. After offering her a rind that was meaty enough to be interesting—not too ripe and not too green—she no longer hissed and stuck out her neck when he appeared in the yard. Eventually she learned to hang out with guests, quietly, when they gathered near the pen to survey the birds.

Unfortunately, that quiet acceptance is no longer the case. Her adopted daughter Bobbi eggs her on, announcing the invasion of strangers with loud protests.

An unanswered question is why she immediately accepted the presence, even the protection, of dogs DeeDee and Scooter, especially after such a bad start in life at the jaws of a hungry fox. I’m not sure. All I can surmise is that she identified the dogs with the appearance of the daily melon rinds in the kitchen scrap bucket.

The dogs also get “treats” from the bucket—broccoli stems—a solution to the jealousy problem associated with the bucket.

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