Barbara Wood's Dispatches from the Home Front: Meet the 'Chicken Lady of Woodside'
Eight years ago, when Jeannine Degnan and her family of four moved to Woodside, she promised her daughter, Emily, two baby chicks.
What Jeannine didn't realize, however, was that once she owned chickens, she loved chickens. She was fascinated by them, and wanted more, and more. Today Jeannine could well be called the "Chicken Lady of Woodside," with a house filled with chicken-themed items; and a yard filled with an ever-growing flock of chickens.
Jeannine's head is full of chicken facts, her Facebook page is full of photos of her chickens. And when she wants some time alone, to decompress from her job and family obligations, Jeannine hangs out - you guessed it - in her chicken coop.
She's been known to lock the door to her upstairs bathroom, open the window, and let one of her bantam roosters fly up to spend some time with her. She used to let the chickens in the house, but husband Jeff told her she had to stop. Chickens may be sweet, but chicken poop is very, very messy.
Jeanine still has one of her original hens, a handsome Rhode Island Red named Squeeky, but by now the Degnans have so many chickens it's hard to keep track of them. Except that it's not, because Jeannine knows the name of every chicken, even the newly hatched chicks.
The flock includes: Squeeky, Roxy, Peanut, Sugar, Spice, Bisquits, Gravy, Charcoal, Lola, Jezebel, Sugarpuff, Fifi, Tiffany, Penny, LaFawnduh, (from Napoleon Dynamite), Charlie, Katrina, Rolla, Cupcake, Goldie, Ruby, Cornelia Marie (named after one of the boats on the Deadliest Catch), Shasta and Ophelia.
They come in all shapes and colors and breeds: Ameraucana, American Game Bantam, Booted Bantam, Cochin, Cornish, Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red, Silkie, Wyandotte, and Barred Rock.
The cartons of eggs Jeanine provides to her friends and family are unique. The eggs come in blue, green, the traditional white, and shades of brown, from chocolate to tan; in sizes from petite (the bantams) to extra large, with bright yellow yolks.
The birds also share their coop and yard with a couple of rabbits and a friendly mixed-breed dog. They keep the garden free of slugs, snails, spiders and most bugs.
When Jeannine arrives home from her job at Genentech, the chickens flock to greet her. If she sits down with a bag of bread crusts the chickens climb on her lap and shoulders to jostle for a bite. She calls them by name, and they cluck softly back.
Just how much does Jeannine love her chickens? So much that, more than once, she has given a chicken that fell into her swimming pool cardio-pulmonary resuscitation - mouth to beak. Sadly, the fowl did not survive.
Jeanine posts "Chicken of the Day" photos and "Chicken Fact of the Day" on her Facebook site, sharing insights such as this: "A hen will turn her eggs over 50 times a day to make sure that the yolk does not stick to the shell. That's if they are expecting ... a baby chicken that is. Most hens will not sit on eggs unless they are broody."
"They relax me," Jeannine says of her pets. "They are really entertaining, watching them interact with each other and their young."
Barbara Wood is a freelance writer, photographer and gardener from Woodside. Her column runs the third week of the month.
~~~~~CHICKENS CHICKENS CHICKENS~~~
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