A Hen, a Dog, a Story

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal 4 Comments

It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen that lays the eggs. (Margaret Thatcher)

Last week while my daughter was visiting Christmas week, we visited a nearby chicken farm. The farm is a couple of miles away from where I live, but I might never have known that except for their hen guarding dog, Bunny. Last year she was a young dog, full of energy like my new furry friend, Frankie.

Anyway, for some reason Bunny decided it was fun to run away from her farm, come through the fields and show up in my yard. At the time Oscar, my sweet dog that passed away in October, was often taking his ease out in the yard. Bunny decided they were best friends. She liked me too. She’d “escape” her farm and run straight to my house and come to my back door. That first time she showed up in the yard, I checked her collar, found out her name and saw a number to call if she strayed from home. That’s how I met her owner and found out about the Clucky Hen Farm where happy hens lay country eggs.

When Kate came to pick up Bunny, she was not happy. I didn’t blame her. You don’t want your dog running away all the time. I can sympathize even more now with Frankie wanting to run to the neighbor’s house every time he hears somebody in the yard. But at least Frankie isn’t deserting his job. Bunny is a working dog whose job is keeping her flock of chickens safe from wild animal dangers like hawks and coyotes and raccoons. Eventually, her owners put an electric fence on the gate that Bunny had learned to climb over. That taught Bunny a hard lesson and she’s decided to stay home now and be a good watchdog for her hens.

I grew up with chickens. I did a chicken project in 4-H Club. In fact, the very first profit I received from writing was a hundred baby chicks that I won after writing an essay about why I wanted those baby chicks. I liked taking care of the chicks with my mom’s help. Baby chicks are really cute … and dumb. They will pile on top of one another and suffocate the unlucky ones on the bottom of the pile. That’s why you have to have heat lamps to keep them properly warm if they don’t have a mama hen with warm wings to sleep under. Mom had laying hens that had free run of our yard and the fields. In the spring and summer they would lay more eggs than we could eat and my mother would take them to the country store and exchange them for groceries she needed. Sometimes when she had an abundance of eggs we ate a lot of dressed eggs and sometimes angel food cake from scratch. Delicious. Angel food cake takes a dozen egg whites. Then that delicious icing takes another three egg whites. I’m sure we had scrambled eggs with the leftover yolks.

In These Healing Hills, I wrote in some hens for my nurses. The Frontier Nurses did have hens to supply their eggs and I let my character take a hen in a gunnysack to Granny Em, an old mountain woman. On the way she meets Ben Locke and they find the old woman sick with pneumonia and insist on her into going to Ben’s house.

“And you could just let an old woman die in peace.”

“You’ve never been the peaceful sort,” Ben said.

“But I got this new chicken to keep away from the foxes and the cow to milk.” Granny Em shook her head.

“I’ll come back up here and see to your cow or Woody will. And we’ll take that fetched hen with us, but Ma won’t let it in the house. I can tell you that.”

“Plenty of folks do.” Granny Em peered up at him.

“Not Ma.”

“She always was picky about her house.” Granny Em let out a wheezy sigh. “But I reckon Silky can manage in your henhouse.”

“Silky?” Fran said.

“Ain’t you never stroked a chicken’s feather, girl? Got a sweet, silky feel to them.” Granny Em looked at Fran and then back at Ben. “Tell you what. I’ll head on down to your ma’s soon as them pills the nurse girl give me make me feel up to it.”

“That won’t do,” Ben said. “You’re going now. Along with that hen.”

So do you agree with Granny Em? I’ve stroked my share of chickens so I can see where she came up with the name Silky.

Have you ever had a pet hen or rooster? I had a pet banty rooster once, but that another story for another day.

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid. (Mark Twain)

The only thing that ever sat its way to success was a hen. (Sarah Brown)

Comments 4

  1. Kristy Horine

    I have four ladies now, down from the dozen-plus we had several years ago. Yes, chickens are dumb, but they are great teachers, too: Enemies are often preceded by shadow (hawks), or they come clothed in shadows (night critters); Not all that can be pecked is beneficial; and, Following the crowd mostly just looks like panic. We have a heat lamp in our coop right now and they huddle around it, though they are well past their first molt.

    Thanks for the story and the memory that goes with it. STILL don’t have your new book, but it is on my list for this year. And the quote from Mark Twain about ‘merely laying an egg’ – well, it’s obvious he’s never given birth before. Poor man, lacking perspective, making him look very much like a chicken … 🙂

    1. Post
      Ann H Gabhart

      True, Kristy. I think you’re right about Mark Twain not giving the poor hen enough credit. LOL.

      I like the things you mention that we can learn from chickens, especially that about the shadow of danger.

      Hope if you get a chance to read These Healing Hills, you’ll enjoy the story. Maybe you can talk Kentucky Monthly into letting you do a review and I can send you a book.

      Happy writing.

  2. Gail Bennett Medina, Tn.

    Mother always had chickens when we were growing up on our small farm. They were allowed to run outside the pin some days, when we had our favorite guard dog of all time,Butch. He was very good at taking care of us kids and chickens. He loved to lay in the middle of my playhouse especially if I was trying to sweep my floor. He would not move no matter how I argued with him. I remember crying and calling mother to make him move,her reply would be leave him alone he is your guard. I found what she meant one day when a cottonmouth showed up in my place house. Butch saw him first thank goodness. He grabbed that snake and shook him until he quit moving ,but if anyone tried to get close to see it he would grab it again. Mother said Butch just didn’t want to take a chance it wasn’t dead. Needless to say I never tried to run him out of my house again. Miss Butch still. Every farm needs a smart, loving , guard dog.

    1. Post
      Ann H Gabhart

      What a great story, Gail! Nothing like a dog to protect us. I’ve had many good dogs but I don’t think I could call any of them guard dogs like your Butch. I used to think walking with a dog would scare off the snakes that might me in my path, but then I was walking with a cockerspaniel years ago and happened to notice that he stopped and stood right over a green snake without ever knowing it was there. The snake was smart enough to stay still until the dog moved on and then it slithered off on its way, no harm done to dog or snake or even me. Sounds like Butch was a very good dog. Thanks for sharing about him.

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