Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

For the past several weeks, I have seen no evidence of the Christmas spirit in our barnyard. The chickens have decided that it is every hen for herself, grabbing food, cutting each other off as I serve them their meals, and refusing to socialize with each other. Normally, at night they would roost together to provide greater warmth, but not now. They scatter across the coop, with the exception of one hen who roosts next to Clarence, whose arrival at their abode I previously described. He is a gentleman and is not aggressive in his behavior patterns.

Many years ago, on a frigidly cold night in the middle of a blizzard, I had bundled my flock of hens into a small storage building for them to avoid the freezing gales that were sweeping our hillside. In the middle of the night, I could not sleep for worrying about them. I got up, dressed, put on my boots and heaviest outerwear, and trudged to check on them, fighting the storm with each step.

When I arrived and opened the door, a blast of heat hit me in the face, as if the building had been electrified and had its own HVAC system, which it obviously did not. The chickens had generated sufficient heat to keep themselves quite warm and toasty. Actually, I was jealous that they were warmer out there than I was inside. If room had existed, I gladly would have stayed with them. 

Since that night I have taken the position that Mother Nature knows best, and I should let her take care of her own in similar situations. I concluded that my job is to buy the food, serve them their meals, and collect the eggs. With respect to the latter part of the litany, I have not had any responsibility, as they all are on strike.  For the first time since last winter we have had to buy eggs at the grocery store, I am sure to the great delight of Francine Jones and her colleagues at Tri-Star. I hope Francine does not become overly accustomed to the additional revenue their stonewalling has produced, as I expect them to return to service as soon as the weather mitigates.

I cannot write an item about the barnyard without mentioning Gladys. I was not aware of the fame of her breed, the Cotton Patch Goose, until I saw one depicted last year on the U.S. Postal Service’s page of Heritage Breed stamps. At times I almost think that she is on to her sudden notoriety and is behaving accordingly. I realize that geese should be in a gaggle, rather than by themselves as she as been these past two years, but then I ask myself, “What respectable gander would want to spend 24/7 with her?” Oh well, one must be out there somewhere.

Although she is a prime specimen of her breed, her personality leaves much to be desired. She seems particularly disinclined to become friends with human beings.  Since Lou, her spouse, died, she honks less constantly, and I am certain that she misses having him to boss around the coop. As a rule, geese like to be confined at night, at least all that I have had up until Gladys. On days when I let her out into the larger barnyard, she is obstinate in expressing her unwillingness to return to the fold when evening comes. I only can say that hers is a difficult personality.

This coming spring I plan to increase the flock, and I hope to reproduce the gaggle, that is to adopt a couple of geese to keep Gladys company. As far as the chickens go, I am returning to my favorite breed, the Dominecker, which I continue to view as the platonic ideal of a fowl.