Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

Spring has sprung in more ways than those that are purely botanical. Gladys is depositing her eggs in the usual helter-skelter manner across the barnyard with no regard for the other fowl that share her quarters. She is the quintessential exemplar of why the term “silly goose” crept into the English vocabulary. 

As her spouse, Lou, died a year-and-a-half ago, again this year we shall have no little goslings to welcome—but in the 10 years they were together, she never produced offspring anyway. Consequently, my Good Wife had many opportunities to prepare her superb goose egg frittata, which has become as much a hallmark of spring as having a shad roe dinner. 

Unlike Lou, who was a charming animal, a great conversationalist and a gentleman in every respect, Gladys is devoid of personality. I cannot translate her honks, but they convey the meaning that she is totally out for herself, having no regard to her fellow barnyard inhabitants and seeking no camaraderie with humans. She is never grateful for her food and looks at it as if to say, “Is that the best you can do?” despite my tireless efforts to serve her appetizing fare. The only courses she seems to enjoy are the fresh chickweed and ajuga in full bloom.

Recently, two of our ancient hens have left us, leaving us with a flock of 15. They were not victims of “fowl” play. I am certain the remaining hens find sharing quarters with Gladys to be a most trying experience as she insists on bossing them around all day long. To their credit, they have learned to stand up for themselves against her bullying, diving in for the chickweed before she gets it all and making sure that they get their water—at least what is left of it after she finishes both drinking and bathing. I have to water them at regular intervals to keep them hydrated.

The chickens are Rhode Island reds. They are beginning to lay well now that we are in spring, and most of their eggs are jumbo in size. The older hens are retired on pension, receiving their daily allotments of food and water, but not producing. Perhaps I am being too harsh on them, for they might be eating some bugs, but that and producing fertilizer are their only favorable attributes.

Since childhood, my favorite breed of chicken has been the Dominecker, a black and white spotted variety that is both docile and friendly. They like to be petted and readily become friends with humans, whereas Rhode Island reds are almost universally selfish individuals, unwilling to share and aggressive in their behavior—even toward me, their waiter and caregiver. My fingers appear to them to be potential food, necessitating the wearing of gloves while in their presence. Donning Bermuda shorts in the barnyard would be an extremely risky undertaking.

As a respite for the chickens, the Elder B.E. last summer built a movable cage that can accommodate two hens at a time, allowing them to escape from Gladys’ harassment, affording the occupants the possibility of scratching in the fresh grass, thereby possibly finding a juicy worm or grub and simply relaxing in a different venue. Those selected for it genuinely seem to delight in getting away. We move the portable crate around the yard for the occupants to be able to capitalize on the best grass conditions.

Chickens are funny creatures, in an odd sort of way. They prefer to eat any feed that falls on the ground over that served in the clean containers. They like drinking spilled water over that in their bowls, and their favorite food of all is an accidentally dropped egg, which they will gobble up in a flash. They also insist on removing the fresh straw I place in their nesting boxes, always choosing to lay their eggs on the bare wood.

I continue to be amazed and amused by their antics—and at present, I am hopeful of being served a goose egg frittata for supper.