My adventure in chickens started many years before I brought the first hens to my home. In fact, I can truly say, it started much earlier. As a child, I always had a passion for objects that flew in the sky. If it had wings, I wanted to know everything about it. This passion eventually led to my professional career as an airline mechanic.
My passion concerning winged animals naturally led to birds as well. Bird watching became a great joy. But, I always longed to have a more interactive contact with such amazing creatures that possessed the gift of flight.
Once a coworker told me about his small backyard chicken flock, I was hooked and started throwing together a makeshift coop of my own. The exact moment I was done, Craigslist led to me a small farm in a very rural part of Clark County.
I didn't’t know much about chicken breeds, so I purchased from the seller two Rhode Island Reds and a Jersey Giant. One of the Rhode Island Reds (which was actually a Production Red hen as I would later find out) would be a very special girl indeed.
She, like the other hens was ten weeks old. The right age to be in an outside coop and forage in the backyard. Her tail feathers were damaged from an encounter with a Jersey Giant rooster. I was assured that the feathers would eventually be replaced and she would become a very pretty hen.
I agreed and took the three hens home in couple of cardboard boxes. My special PR hen was already poking her head through the box’s air holes and watched the scenery go by outside the car windows.
Once I was home and at the coop, I removed the box lids and began putting the hens into their new home. The Jersey Giant and other PR were more than happy to go enter their new coop. Even though the trip was not stressful, they wanted to simply settle down and bed for the evening.
On the other hand, my special hen instantly jumped out of the box and began inspecting her new backyard. Unlike the others, she was’t very afraid of me. In fact she simply wanted to get a layout of the land. From this day on, I named her Miss Adventure.
After a week in the new hen house, the trio was allowed to exit the coop and freely roam the fenced backyard. Miss Adventure was the first one out of the coop. She was also the first to eat an unsuspecting spider as well as accept food from my hand. In fact, in less than three weeks, I was able to pick her up.
Miss Adventure sitting on my leg while trying to eat sunflower seed while I am breaking them out of the shells.
At first I only picked her up and walked inside the fenced backyard. Eventually, I would take her outside the confines and stroll the block with her neatly perched on my wrist. I never had to forcibly grab her. Just the words ‘Misadventure, walk?’ would lead her into my arms.
Above, me taking little Miss Adventure for a walk. Below, my wife is strolling the subdivision with her. As you can see she is grew up to be a very beautiful hen.
My amazed neighbors were awe struck as they saw me carrying a seven pound hen though the subdivision. Children would run to pet her and delight at her gentle nature as well as easy personality. My adult neighbors couldn't’t believe that this little hen would allow herself to be passed around like basketball. Other were just amazed that she was willing to be held by all.
The most delighted was my neighbor’s four year old grand daughter. Though she was in great pain from the many back surgeries to repair her vertabrae, the beautiful brown chicken made that pain simply melt away. It was as if the gentle hen struck an unseen connection that created joy inside a little girl plagued with an adult sickness. Any visit to grandma’s house always started with the words, ‘chicken, chicken.’ I don’t know how much little Miss Adventure directly helped with her recovery in a scentifically mneasurable way, all I know is that little girl went on to have a full recovery. I’d like to think my hen played a big part in upgrading her morale.
Miss Adventure’s gentle nature didn't’t mean she was a pushover. Early on, in my chicken career, at a time when I had little knowledge of predators, an opossum broke into my coop. While the others hens clucked and made noise while cowering from their attacker, Miss Adventure immediately went on the offensive against the invader.
When I arrived at the coop, the bleeding opossum was departing the coop at a furious pace. After I dispatched the predator, a quick inspection revealed Miss Adventure standing proudly on a roosting board. Uninjured and untouched, she proudly displayed her tormentor’s blood on her beak. Visibly calmed, she returned to her normal sleeping place – a specific bay in the nesting box.
Miss Adventure fully grown in all her glory during a lazy summer evening.
Miss Adventure grew to be a very productive hen. She always delivered me a good quota of speckled brown eggs through her laying years. As she slowed her egg production, in the later months, she became increasingly broody. She was never aggressive, but tended to sleep in the nesting box where she was always hiding a couple of eggs. A gentle reach underneath her breast alongside with some petting of her neck allowed me to retrieve my prize. Often, the egg sitting continued into the morning if I failed to inspect underneath her breast feathers.
Miss Adventure’s slowing production led to a some discussion between my wife and I about her future in my small suburban backyard. We both decided that she would always have a home with us no matter her age or egg production status. Since my other hens’ egg production was slowing faster, we decided that come springtime, Miss Adventure’s broodiness would be put to the test. She would be allowed to incubate fertile eggs.
On Halloween evening 2011, I went to check on the girls at five o’clock. The commotion in he roadway had been rather noisy and I figured the girls would be disturbed. I also had a fresh pumpkin that would be their evening snack. The other hens ate heartily, but Miss Adventure was standoffish. She allowed me to pet her, but wasn't’t interest in eating.
Closer to nightfall, at the time the girls normally went into the coop I returned to the backyard. My heart was immediately broken. Miss Adventure, 2.5 years old to the day, was lying dead in the grass just a few feet from the feeder that hung from the coop’s floor. There were no injuries and no signs of trauma. She had simply died of natural causes. Here sister was making a fuss and trying to wake her. But no amount of clucking would help.
Still feeling like I had been kicked in the stomach, I returned the other PR to the coop. Despite her protests and some fighting, she settled down to a long despair on a roosting board. My other two hens hung their heads in shame while draped in silence. I noticed the eerily empty nesting box as I departed.
Fighting back tears, I immediately dug a large deep hole in my garden. Then with a final goodbye I gently placed my fallen hen into the hole. I then covered her over with dirt and returned her body back to the earth.
I always said Miss Adventure’s spirit would be a permanent part of my family. Now, her physical body was a permanent part of my home as well. Miss Adventure touched a lot of lives with her love. I like to think that she is watching over my new flock while perched in a great chicken coop in the sky.