Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

As a general rule of life, I try to avoid venting. Griping and complaining normally produce no positive results, but sometimes expressing one’s frustrations can be therapeutic.

Take, for example, my relationship with Gladys, who has been a part of our family now for almost 15 years. She is not mean by nature, but totally self-centered—egocentric to the extreme. She only can think of how large her slice of the proverbial “pie” should be—in her case, namely, all of it.

Unlike her late spouse, Lou, a truly charming creature, Gladys is out for herself—often at the expense of others, specifically the hens with which she lives. For over 10 years, I tried to teach her how to make a nest in the hope of getting some goslings. She would have none of it, laying her large eggs all across the barnyard, wherever she felt like depositing them. 

I would cluster them together, but to no good effect. Now that Lou is gone, she has discovered the primary purpose of eggs, namely, the preservation of the species.  She has found a depression in the ground where she has gathered straw, and where she fastidiously has been laying her eggs, but obviously without a spouse, we shall see no forthcoming goslings. 

In years past, my Good Wife had used the eggs to make a sumptuous goose egg frittata, but more recently we had left the eggs in the nest that I had made in the hopes of getting some goslings—all to no avail. This year, given the impossibility of goslings, my Good Wife has used the eggs to make a couple of marvelous cheesecakes, having concocted a recipe of her own. Without wishing to denigrate other cheesecakes, I can say that these are about the best I ever have tasted.

Unlike Lou, who thrived on human contact and being petted, Gladys refuses to let anyone approach her. When I feed the chickens, she attempts to grab all of the food for herself—clearly an impossibility, but she tries. She honks constantly, more than any of my past roosters have crowed, and attempts to take a full-body bath in the water containers, necessitating my daily replenishment of each of them in order for the chickens to be able to have their fair share. 

Speaking of the chickens: at present, we have no rooster, and in their own way the hens are as confusing to me as Gladys. Last week, I took apart their nesting boxes, blew the area clean with a battery-powered blower, rebuilt it and having observed that they have tended to lay all of their eggs only in two of the boxes, I put the clean straw in those boxes.

Upon going out to the barnyard the next morning, I found that all of the eggs had been laid in the boxes without any straw. I thought, why did I even try to second guess them? Clearly, they had no appreciation for my efforts; but then again, what should I have expected from animals that try to peck at me while I am feeding them? The old adage that a dog will not bite the hand that feeds it does not apply to Rhode Island red chickens.

And speaking of feeding the hens: another conundrum comes to mind. I have provided nice, clean containers for their food and water, but if I drop a few morsels on the ground, they prefer to consume them first. The same is true with water. They push each other out of the way to get to water droplets spilled on the ground before ever drinking from the container. Perhaps they do not like having to drink Gladys’ bath water? Quite simply, they prefer spilled water to served water.

I got my first chicken, Daisy, a lovely Dominecker, when I was five, and I have been dealing with different fowl for most of the ensuing years. I treat all of them as pets, and when they stop laying, they live on in luxury retirement, never making it to the stew pot. The present crowd is the most challenging I have experienced, but now, having vented these frustrations, I am better equipped to deal with them.