Meet the Henriettas

Reminiscent of Gonzo’s Muppet Show chickens, the Henriettas peer through the dog door.

Rhode Island Reds? Golden Comet hybrids? Who knows! The two hardly distinguishable chickens I call the Henriettas are Amish mutts of the hen world, but they generally lay an egg a day (or at least did before days got short) and are entertaining; so does it really matter what breed they are? They’re the leaders of our flock; the largest; the boldest; the most adventurous. They remind me of Gonzo’s chickens from the Muppet Show as they stare through the dog door, willing it to open so they can be part of whatever excitement might be on the other side. Crack the door even slightly, their bills are already in. They’re relentlessly persistent, a lesson I learned the hard way. 

When we first brought them home we didn’t have a proper coop. We had a fenced in area for them to roam and a rabbit hutch for secure sleep, but we lacked a nest box. They were too young to lay so it wasn’t an issue initially, but protecting our blueberry bushes was. Within just a couple of days they’d exposed the roots with their scratching, putting our precious blueberry crop in jeopardy. We painstakingly covered the ground around the bushes in chicken wire, but next they chewed off the bottom leaves. We constructed a small fence around the bushes and seemed to have reached a compromise… until the Henriettas began laying eggs. Somehow they decided that the best place to lay was in a corner between the blueberries and the house, on the other side of our protective fence. The battle was on. 

One of the Henriettas trapped in the blueberry enclosure.

We made the fence higher. They got in. We added a netting roof. They still got in. We secured the netting to the fence with tie wraps. They still got in, though they could no longer get back out. I’d find one or both Henriettas pacing among the blueberries. I’d pop open a tie-wrap to create a wide enough gap to reach in for a rescue. They’d run into my hands, eager to be free now that their egg was safely deposited in the chosen corner, well beyond my reach. Yet I couldn’t figure out how they were getting in.

After days of spying, I finally watched in amazement as one of the Henriettas flew to the top of our chicken wire fence, bounced across the netting trampoline we’d inadvertently created, flew to the top of the outer permanent fence, tight-rope walked to the back corner where the netting was simply draped against the house and slid right down to her self-proclaimed nesting area. I’d added a nest box to their yard by now and this flagrant disobedience annoyed me. I stormed out, climbed the fence myself and entered in the same place as the Henrietta. I plucked her from the ground, climbed back out and put her in the proper nest box. Surely I could outsmart a chicken. I added a couple more feet of fencing to the spot where she’d flown up and retreated to watch.

Both Henriettas paced the perimeter, then the bolder of the two leaped up toward the top of my addition. It took a few tries, but she finally perched upon my extension. I raced out and grabbed her. I put her back in the nest box, added a line of even taller garden tools and retreated to spy. 

Henrietta once again took a giant leap and landed atop my extension, apparently even more easily now that it was made of solid equipment instead of flimsy plastic fencing. We went back and forth. Her clearing all my extensions and me grabbing her before the next leg of her journey. I’d ordered a proper chicken coop by now, but it would be several days before it arrived and I simply couldn’t spend all day thwarting a chicken. Why didn’t she like the nest box already present? 

Location? I moved it. She still didn’t approve. 

More cushioning? I added straw. She cleared my barricade again. 

Not private enough? In desperation, I found a cardboard box and stuck the nest box inside. BINGO. 

Henrietta squatted by my side for a pet, then went in and laid her egg. I may have won the battle, but I’d say she won the war.

The Henriettas.

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