This is the last column I will write before heading south to finally escape this winter’s horrendous snows and frigid temperatures. I’ve picked a silly subject,, chickens, but it will be an easy one to write as I’m very familiar with these feathered friends. My family had a flock of about 8 hens, and it was my job to fill the feeder, collect the eggs, put fresh hay in their nests and periodically clean up all the dropping from under their roost.
Each fall when the orchard just beyond the chicken coop began to drop its overripe plums and pears and apples, we would let the hens out to enjoy the feast. One hen seemed to rule the roost, so to speak. She was very bossy, always chasing the others away from whatever fruit she found. I named her Greedy, painted her beak and toenails with nail polish and entered her in the West Hartford pet parade. I think she won a prize as the most unusual pet, but I may be making that up.
When Hank and I moved to Locust Hill we bought six layers and discovered that if we gave them the shells from our once-a-year treat of a lobster dinner, a few days later we could enjoy an omelet deliciously flavored with lobster. I’m not making that up. Those omelets were full of the flavor of lobster. Unfortunately when Hank’s doctor informed him that he had seriously high cholesterol and shouldn’t be eating eggs, we gave up on hens and started raising capons instead.
That fall the capons got fatter and fatter as Hank and I argued over who would pluck and gut them. Neither of us minded chopping off their heads, but we both loathed these two smelly jobs. One capon got so fat he became stuck in the small hole used to get in and out of the hen house. Our friend Tibbie Robinson came to the rescue, offering to do both jobs in return for two capons. These doctored roosters were truly ambrosial, but they were such a bone of contention in our marriage, we never got any more.
We did miss our feathered friends though, and a few years later, our friends the Taits, who hatch a dozen eggs for the local school each spring, offered to give us a handsome rooster. I loved the idea of hearing a nice cock-a-doodle-doo every morning, but when I’d picked out a colorful Banty rooster with fluffy feathers on his feet, Colin was so horrified that I wouldn’t take some wives for him that I gave in and took three ladies.
We named the rooster Tarzan because his cock-a-doodle-doo sounded just like Johnny Weissmuller’s jungle call. Sad to say, in less than a week raccoons had gotten all three females. Tarzan, however, had apparently been smart enough to fly high up into a pine tree. We decided to rename him Celibate. His escape from the raccoon s had taught him to always stay close to Eeyore, our donkey, and he lived for many years.
No more columns until April as I am off to New Orleans with my three girls. Let’s hope spring will have arrived by the time I get home and I can think about gardening again.