The Hen that wasn’t ready to give up the Ghost.

circa 2000, first published in The Light

Retirement allows one to take on new hobbies. In my case I thought that a few hens running around the garden would be nice. They would fill the gap now that the stress and strain of nine to five at the office was over for good. My wife and I live on a few acres of garden near the Waugh’s River, Tatamagouche.

12 years when we first retired we decided to keep a few hens. I surfed the Internet to find a suitable poultry breed to suit our needs. Without a doubt we were looking for the Old Breeds, ones that were docile, nice to look at, gave you large eggs and in the end provided a Sunday dinner.

We choose Buff Orpingtons and Barred Rocks, both with reputations of being very quiet birds. The Buffs were difficult to locate but the Barred Rocks were easy to find. Early in May we took delivery of 1 dozen one-week-old chicks. I also read in the Rural Delivery that a Lunenburg County breeder was bringing in Barred Rock / New Hampshire Red day old pullets. I opted to share air fright expenses with him and ordered 25 pullets. All was under way and we had only 26 weeks to wait for fresh brown eggs.

We built a new hen house with wall to wall nest boxes Our roosts were the envy of every hen in North Colchester . We had everything but eggs and 26 weeks was a long wait. The solution to our problem was on a bulletin board notice in the Tatamagouche Home Hardware. “ Laying Hens for Sale, only $5”

That was a mistake. I had forgot my initial promise to my wife; you remember the one that said docile breeds only, the ones that are nice to look at, quiet, mind their business as they forage for tidbits in the garden. I invested $25 and in return I got five featherless Leghorns that were nothing short of a walking disaster. They were unapproachable, definitely not suited to our retired way of life.

Like myself I am sure that you are familiar with agencies that rescue animals. Slow greyhounds, tired race horses, neglected donkeys that might end up on a short road to the glue factory. That is if it were not for a protective family to provide them shelter and protection. That’s how we put the spin on the story to our friends on why we had 5 featherless nut cases running around our designer hen run.

Now there was a bonus to our dilemma. Everyone familiar with Leghorns also knows that while frantic in nature they are formidable egg layers, yes an egg every day is your reward.

As the summer days got longer and warmer we were able to trade a few of our pullets for more experienced ones, 2 Light Sussex and 2 Rhode Island hens. With our egg requirement taken care my need to look at featherless poultry derrieres diminished.

I gave 4 of the Leghorns away. Buddy down the road was less worried about their nature and simply wanted their daily egg production. I was then left with only one Leghorn, the one we called Phyllis.

I had to promise my wife that the day the new pullets started laying eggs, Phyllis would be history, you know off  to the cozy nest box in the sky.

When it comes to doing the necessary deed, I am your man. My style is quick, efficient and I always I trust, humane. When the day finally came, that is the arrival of the first  egg  from my pullets, we were excited . The first egg also meant that Phyllis had served her time and the deed had to be done.

Now if you’re squeamish, don’t read on.

Phyllis was taken off her roost that night and under my arm was lead to the big shed adjacent to the hen run. I have a Priest that does the final deed. No not a Father from St. Michel’s  but a cut down baseball bat that according to Scottish tradition is used to send poor animals off to a better life.

With little fuss and great dexterity I delivered the blow, placed her in a bin and left the shed to watch the CBC evening news. Next day I returned but Phyllis was gone. First thought was our Springer Spaniel had a late snack that night. There was no love between the two of them. Murphy could not be the culprit, he prefer his chicken off the BarBQ. Perhaps it was raccoon or maybe a fox. One thing for sure there was no Phyllis to be found. Time for the morning coffee and but first as is my habit I would check the egg box for that day’s eggs.

Much to my surprise Phyllis was back in the Coop laying another large white egg . How she managed to survive is a mystery but survive she did and I can assure she hasn’t lost a beat.  She is still laying eggs and is not ready to call it quits. As one would expect she has been pardoned and will spend her days spoiled whether she is frantic or not.


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