Chickenology is a lot like humanology – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


Aria helps grandpa gather eggs If there’s snow on the ground, our hens won’t venture from the hen house. They come to the threshold, peck at the snow, but opt to stay indoors. That’s fine with me. I leave the south door open for them during the day so that they get a little sunshine and vitamin D. Even in this bitterly cold weather, our lucky 13 hens are still pumping out a dozen eggs a day like clockwork. I have to gather the eggs more often because of freezing, but our girls are still producing. I attribute it to the marigold extract in the laying mash and, of course, TLC.
I have no heat in the hen house, save for their water heater. So, contrary to popular belief, you do not have to heat the hen house in the winter. (I did insulate it.) With all their feathers, the hens are quite hardy. I make sure they have plenty of corn scratch to keep them busy and build a layer of fat. But outside of that, they are self-sufficient.
When the snow started to melt off their ramp, they decided to venture outdoors a little. But they made it no further than the shelter of a trailer I had parked nearby. They spent the day under the trailer, protected from the northwest wind. When I went out to shut them in for the night, one confused hen had decided to remain outdoors and was trying to stay warm in some tall grass. Strange. I picked her up and returned her to the safety of the hen house. I did a quick count. All 13 were accounted for.
Ginnie’s daughter and granddaughter visited over Christmas. Of course, granddaughter, Aria, wanted to help grandpa do chores. It was her first experience with farm animals, but she caught on real quick. We had her help scatter corn and gather eggs. She now knows where eggs come from. When we came back in the house she was quite interested in learning how to crack an egg to make scrambled eggs. I can’t wait ’til spring when she can help nurse the bucket calf we are going to get.
People line up for our eggs and Ginnie and I have fun giving them away. Family comes first, so I keep my son and daughter in Mt. Pleasant well stocked. At a dozen nice brown eggs a day, there is no way Ginnie and I can eat them all. But they sure are good.
Two of our hens were given to us, Buffy and Red. They are the only ones with names, because we can distinguish them from the others. Their eggs are also different; they are speckled.
Buffy is a bully (Buffy the Bully) and picks on the other hens. I don’t know why they allow it, but Buffy seems to have an attitude, possibly because she was adopted. If there’s a pecking order, Buffy is at the top. Buffy and Red, the two adoptees, stick close together, and Buffy may be protecting Red. I dunno. I’m just beginning to learn chickenology. It’s a lot like humanology.
When Ginnie and I are gone overnight, we have our neighbor boys, Brody and Boden (Bro and Bo) do chores for us. When I walked them through the chore routine, the hens flocked around the farm boys like old buddies. Bro picked one of them up and put her under his arm. Bo stroked her and said, “Aw, I wish we still had chickens.”
I knew our hens were in good hands.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.

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