Hunting for Barnyard Treasure

When I was five or six, Mom showed me how and where to find unauthorized and hidden hen egg nest.  For my safety, she drilled into me the limits within which I could hunt.  At the barn, I could go no further than the beginning of the woods; at the house, the spring where we got our water was the limit.  When she was sure that I would obey those rules she named me her little treasure hunter.  The job filled me with pride, and I endeavored to find every maverick hen nest.

We had one flock of chickens living at the barn, and another lived around the house.

How the chickens knew which flock they belonged in, I have no idea, but they did, and visitation did not occur between the flocks, enforced by their lord-high roosters.

The barnyard flock was ruled over by an iridescent, indigo rooster that glistened in sunlight. His tail plumage, of the same color, shot-up from his body only to fall in a graceful drape.  A tall, red comb rode on his head, setting off the indigo quite nicely. I loved to watch him lower one wing and prance a flamingo around one of his ladies.

The house flock’s sovereign was a large Rhode Island Red.  He was no less handsome, but to me his flamingo dance wasn’t as graceful.

Hens being chickens, all seemed to want to hide the prizes they laid from the prying hands that gathered their eggs.  And in the spring, when the urge to sit came over them, hitting them all at once, they would rebel, and you’d see an exodus from the nests in their pens to the woods.

Mom only allowed ten to fifteen hens to sit in a season.  At twelve chicks a hen, that would be a hundred to one hundred twenty chick, which meant about 275 chickens in one flock.  Too many to feed.  Population control was essential.

When the hens headed for the woods, Mom would call in her Treasure Hunter to find the nests.  It was great fun.  I’d do exaggerated sneaks fantasizing various scenarios from busting up treasure thieves to finding nest filled with golden eggs.  I found most of the nest, but not all.

Frequently, a lady would come strutting and clucking home from the woods with a dozen or more little fuzzy, peeping biddies trailing behind her.

She’d strut amongst the other chickens, proudly showing off her brood.  The other hens gathered round and chicken gossip commenced.

The rooster, of course, was above even noticing the commotion.

The mother hen would scratch the dirt, then cluck a call, and the biddies would dutifully gather, pecking in the area Momma hen had scratched for them, peeping all the while.

I’d watch the hen and chicks interactions, and the pride the other hens seem to take in one of theirs having pulled one over the humans.  It was a beautiful sight.  I wasn’t terribly upset over having missed a few nest.  In fact, I made a point to miss a few.

March 27, 2010 · Carolyn · 2 Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: country life

2 Responses

  1. Sue - March 28, 2010

    I didn’t grow up in the country or on a farm. I sure missed a lot!

  2. Kat - March 28, 2010

    Me, too!! I wish I had grown up in the country. So much to do, to discover and appreciate. 🙂

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