“With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy.”
Thursday, March 23, 2006
The Unflappable Mrs. Hensley
It is with deep regret that I must inform those of you following the egg-citing saga of our two laying hens, that Mrs. Hensley's heroic efforts at motherhood appear to be failing.
As you recall, the stalwart Mrs. Hensley chose the ditch behind our property as the location for her nest, while her somewhat less serious sister, Bedelia, chose the herb bed next to the house. Alas, Mrs. Hensley's choice appears to have doomed her would-be children. The moisture of the ditch seeped up through her nest and into her 13 eggs, which all began to go bad.
Then the raccoon came. We could see his eyes shining in the field as he made his nocturnal approach, no doubt lured by the sulfuric odor coming from the ditch. He's not greedy, taking only one egg a night. By this morning poor Mrs. Hensley had but five left, and a poor sight they were - brownish and splotchy and covered with tiny bits of rotten yolk and shell from an egg that apparently busted as the racoon was trying to roll it away.
But still she persists, the picture of avian determination, brooding her doomed clutch.
On my morning rounds to collect eggs and dispense food to the clucking masses, I traveled down into the malodorous ditch to have a talk with Mrs. Hensley, hen to hen. I told her it was OK, that life is entirely unfair and that sometimes bad things happen to good chickens. I told her there would be other chances, other clutches. She just looked as if I were nuts, which I was, standing there in a stinky ditch talking to a chicken.
Meanwhile, Bedelia's nest now holds over two dozen perfectly beautiful, neglected eggs. For Bedelia can't be bothered with anything as boring as maternal duties. Oh no. Instead, she spends her day rotating between the two roosters, shaking her tail feathers and acting surprised if they begin to fight for her affections, which they both eventually get anyway. Bedelia believes in spreading herself around. If Bedelia were a girl, she'd be the type to come flouncing in at 3 a.m. to awaken the next day wondering where she'd left her panties.
So there you go. One devoted mother, still sitting a doomed clutch of rotten eggs while two dozen tiny chicken embryoes sit hopelessly suspended in developmental limbo, awaiting the maternal warmth that could bring them to life.
It looks like we shall not have an early spring hatch after all. But isn't it funny that even simple barnyard fowl are not outside the reach of life's ironies.