Whenever anyone sees our little Barred Rock hen Henny Penny lying like that on the ground, they ask, "What's wrong with your chicken?" My iPhone photo isn't great, but you can tell she's flat out on her side with her legs at awkward angles, almost like she got run over. (Click on photo for larger image.)
We knew something wasn't right when she was a chick two years ago, and honestly we didn't think she would make it with the rest of the Barred Rocks. But she proved herself a tough little survivor, and she is here today still enjoying life as an outdoor hen. She even lays a tiny egg about once a month, a small gift compared to the other hens' eggs but one that always makes us smile.
And perhaps because of her own struggles, Henny Penny is an empathetic little creature.
Earlier this summer, someone (that would be me) left the gate open to Mitch's yard for a few minutes while poop scooping. One of our Delaware hens -- Gladys, who is part of the original flock from Montana -- wandered into the yard, pecking around for something edible. Mitch might be blind, but as a Husky he has a very strong prey drive, and he immediately could hear Gladys rustling and clucking. In an instant he bounded 40 feet across the yard and grabbed the hen as she raced to escape back under the open gate.
Fortunately, Alayne was walking down to the dog yards from the house at that very moment and saw Mitch attacking the chicken. She ran in, pulled Mitch off, and swept the hen into her arms. Amazingly, Gladys was still alive but in shock, and though we expected to find her neck broken, it wasn't. Her worst injury was a deep puncture wound in her thigh.
We doctored her wounds, cleaned her up, and put her in a big dog crate for convalesence. About a week later she still wasn't able to walk but clearly wanted to go outside, so we put her on some hay just outside the barn door to soak in the sunshine. The other hens would come over to say hello and then wander off.
Not Henny Penny. No, this small hen with the deformed legs would waddle/hop her way over to Gladys, exchange a few clucks, and then keel over sideways to spend the rest of the day lying next to Gladys. As long as Gladys was outside, unable to move, Henny Penny would be right there alongside her. It was a heartwarming though odd sight, because Henny Penny was the one who looked like she was convalescing from some kind of trauma.
In the afternoon, we'd pick up Gladys and bring her back inside. That's when Henny Penny would leave to go peck around the barn yard.
This went on for a couple of weeks, and day by day Gladys got stronger and healthier, her little friend always staying nearby. Soon Gladys was taking a few halting, gimpy steps before tiring and plopping down. Then more steps. Eventually she began venturing farther and farther from the barn door, walking slowly and with a limp. Finally, one afternoon we went to get her but there was no Gladys. We rushed around looking for her. We were astonished to find her back in the chicken coop with the rest of the girls. She had walked all that distance on her own. She was letting us know she was healed and ready to go home.
We didn't see Gladys make the journey, but we'd bet an awkward looking little hen named Henny Penny accompanied her the entire way.
New Shelter Challenge Begins
The latest round of the Shelter Challenge is underway and runs until October 13. You can vote every day here. To search for us, type in our name, Rolling Dog Farm, and Lancaster, NH 03584.
They have redesigned the contest site and made other changes. Please note that I cannot help with technical or voting problems. I also do not have an "inside track" to anyone at the Shelter Challenge, and I don't know any more about the contest than anyone else does. So if you find yourself having issues, please consult their FAQ page here and their Rules page, which is a pop-up you can find linked on this page.
Thanks for your votes!