A Valentine for the Hens
We are the happy owners of three hens. Three years ago, I picked them out at a local feed store and brought them home. They were two days old, and I was twitterpated.
Eleanor (a black sex-link), Rosie (a New Hampshire red) and nearly feral Amelia (an Egyptian fayoumi) — are a delight. When they’re not molting, they lay delicious eggs, about eight a week. They have controlled the infestations of snails and slugs in our back yard, no small feat. Their digestive tracts keep us stocked with very rich compost, and they tuck themselves into their secure coop each night and are up with the sun each day.
OK, that up-with-the-sun part is annoying. Having hens is not an entirely blissful experience. They are not all-together garden-friendly. When we let them out of their run to forage around the yard, they make a beeline to peck away the leaves of tender seedlings. I must cover our raised vegetable beds with hateful bird netting. And, well, they do their business whenever and wherever they please, requiring a daily poop patrol.
But, dang, their eggs are tasty! And, as evidenced the other day, the girls can be great company. I was in the midst of a garden cleanup, stooped for hours, hand raking wet fallen leaves. The hens stuck by me most of the day, allowing the occasional scratch or clucking in response to my idle chitchat. At least that’s what I thought. I soon realized the girls were watching me gather leaves into piles that I would then pick up and put into our green toter. If I turned my back or didn’t move quickly enough, the hens would charge in and scratch through my leaf piles, seeking fresh bugs to eat. It became a race — me gathering leaves and whisking them away before the eagle-eyed trio could move in and “redistribute” my work.
Hey, it made the work go faster. And many young slugs met their demise that day. Thanks for the help, girls!
Three hens - Eleanor (from left), Amelia and Rosie, hunting and pecking for insects in our fallow raised beds.