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What's in a name?

© Another Day in the Country

The day it rained all day and a cold wind blew in from the north threatening snow, Mary, my hen whom you may recall tried immaculate conception and thanks to me, became the ‘mother’ of five nondescript chicks with eggs borrowed from the neighbors, wouldn’t let those now-grown-chicks into the chicken house. Her chicks stood liked disgruntled teenagers, heads hanging down, in the rain — all day! Only Aunt Sue was allowed into the house with Mary. You can see, that chicken is definitely not a saint.

I was so mad at her that I threatened to change her name to something less noble. My sister came for lunch and could hardly eat because she was so distraught at the view from my window: drizzling rain, cold wind, five chickens like wet mops forlornly clumped outside. “You’ve got to do something,” Jess said.

Let’s see: introduce Mary to noodle soup! (I don’t do well eating my own chickens.) Move the two of them to the other chicken house.

“So they can terrorize your other chicks?” my sister cried. “You can’t do that.”

I wouldn’t do that. I could introduce the unfortunate five wet mops to their cousins, but that didn’t really seem like a good idea either. This would mean I’d have several roosters jockeying for territory.

I did go out and try to entice those five chickens into the shelter of the house by putting down scratch grain and calling them in. They wouldn’t come near. Unlike the chickens in “the other house” who come running whenever I call, these five were raised by an actual hen who’s decided, with extreme finality, that enough is enough nurturing and she now just rules the roost — literally. For all her doting a few months ago, she’s one tough mama. Whoever heard of not letting your kids in the house when it’s raining? Only Aunt Sue and Mary allowed in, scratching around, rearranging the furniture (straw), eating snacks.

In the end, I let nature take its course.

“She’ll let them in when it gets dark and she is up on the roost,” I told my distraught sibling. “If not, then we’ll have to go to Plan B, move the chicks.”

I, for one, was relieved when she finally let them in the door. I wasn’t really in the mood to be moving chickens in the dark.

Today, the sun is shining, and the chickens act like nothing unusually miserable happened at all. It’s a holiday. I’ve left them out of the pen to roam around the back yard hunting for bugs. For them, it’s like Disneyland.

These seven chickens in my back yard are all different. Mary is a Black Star, noted for egg laying: brown. Sue is a Single Comb Brown (leghorn) known for their elegant red combs and beautiful feathers. The Fab Five are who knows what. They don’t match a thing in the chicken catalog, but they’re beautiful. They need names. They’re different enough so you can tell them apart — unlike the chickens “in the other house” who tend to look alike, since I only ordered two varieties: Aracaunas and Single Comb Browns. The catalog folk always throw in a mystery chick (usually a rooster) and this time they did a couple of substitutions (who knows what they are — white/buff something or others with fluffy elegant feathers).

The five consist of a beautiful white and gold rooster with a blue/black tail and white feathers on his feet: Dandy. He proclaimed himself the boss early on. At first I thought the rest were hens, but one turned out to be a rooster, albeit a very mild and acquiescent lad confirmed yesterday by his crowing, quite well, for the first time. I’d been wondering about his gender when his gray tail feathers appeared, and then red/gold hackles. He’s a very striking red/brown bird with a beard (which doesn’t tell you anything since several of my hens have beards). I gave him an elegant name: Sultan. Would he have turned out to be egg-laying, she’d be Sultana. One of the hens is soft gray: Dove. Another one is white with a dusting of gray on her wings and tail: Dusty And one hen is orange/gold with black tail feathers, pretty classy looking, trim, perky red comb, saucy. I haven’t been able to settle on a name. Any ideas?

It’s another day in the country, and what better things do you have to do than name a chicken? Names are so important.

Last modified Nov. 10, 2011

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