The hen that wasn’t

Our neighbour Valerio wanted to get rid of one of his three roosters and offered us one plus a hen. The sex drive of this one rooster was a little bit more than our little hen could take, he told us. So off we went to help our lady in distress and get some more women. I know this sounds terribly sexist but nature doesn’t do politically correct.

We went to the Monday morning market to get some dames. Valerio had instructed us to look specifically for hens with their beaks intact, so they could forage and take care of their feathers well. This proved to be somewhat difficult, but in the end we got two lovely sisters, one white and one with mixed colors. We called them Bianca and Polly.

Polly and Bianca in happier days

Misfortune was upon us when Bianca became lame. Going to the vet with a sick chicken is not ‘come si fa’ or how things work here. So after intense internet research and talking to other hen owners, I found out she probably was invected with a notorious chicken virus that would get the better of her after a lot of suffering. Putting your hen down is another no-go, so Marc set out with an axe to solve the problem.

We were left with Polly which meant that we were on the light side regarding our hen-rooster ratio. We set out to the annual agricultural market to solve the problem, and came home with two red-brown sisters. One of them got snatched away by a baby fox before the eyes of our guests. We should have listened to our neighbours not to let the hens forage freely when the foxes had cubs. Now we had three ladies and one rooster. We figured that we would be fine.

After all these set backs, it was  nice to see our little chicks grow into stout hens. Polly a little more robust even than Annika, the remained red-brown girl. A visiting uncle who had had chickens for over 20 years, complimented us on Polly. He said that he could see she was a special variety, that is also used in fights. One morning he told us he saw her going into the chicken coop, and our happiness was complete when we found her first speckled egg. Maybe in time, we would have chicks of our own.

AnnikaAlthough egg production wasn’t up to parr, we weren’t too worried when our hens stopped laying eggs altogether when the days grew shorter. In December we left for New York City to work on our movie while our neighbour was kindly looking after our chickens. An incoming message woke me up in the middle of the night. It was Valerio. He complimented me on the beautiful chickens we had raised. All with their beaks intact. He just didn’t think we could expect too many eggs from Polly. As for he could tell immediately, Polly wasn’t a hen. He was a rooster.