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Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 48 - August/September 2012 > Henny Penny the Kitchen Visitor (by Pr George Porter)

Henny Penny the Kitchen Visitor

by Pr George Porter

Henny Penny the Kitchen Visitor  ---  a story of a home grown hen

My story today is about a faithful white hen my mother called Henny Penny.  However, we must begin the story when Henny Penny was just a day old chick called Chickey Lickey.  Just after the war Dad settled on a 2 hectare plot of virgin bush just under the border gate at Nunimbah. Our humble three roomed hut was under the shadow of the McPherson range.

After clearing some land we planted a large fruit and vegetable garden to supply food for our family. One day Dad decided that we should purchase a dozen day old chickens, so that our diet could be eventually supplemented with good fresh farm eggs.

The day came to purchase the chickens.  Dad noticed an advertisement in the local paper, "The Tweed Daily", where Budd's Farm Supplies were offering chicks for sale. There was great excitement one morning when we all prepared for town.  We walked four kms along an old bush road to the main Nunimbah to Murwillumbah road and caught the bus for town.  Murwillumbah was about thirty kms away.  The bus travelled every week day from the border gates to Murwillumbah,  taking farmers to shop and school students to Chillingham Primary and Murwillumbah High schools.

After a bouncy ride we arrived in town and our first work was to go to the shoe shop and ask for an old shoe box.   After placing some fine straw in the box we went off to Budd's farm supplies to buy our chickens.  It was all so exciting.  Before placing the chicks in the box we poked many holes in the lid so that the dear little chicks could breathe and not suffocate.

We waited until just before the bus left to return home after school came out before collecting the chicks.  Mister Budd allowed Dad to choose twelve fluffy chicks himself assuring him that they were all little lady chicks.   He also assured Dad that they were all white leghorns and would one day be prolific producers of fresh eggs.  With this assurance we boarded our bus and after collecting the high school students set off for our home in Nunimbah.

We were so proud of our shoe box of chickens.  My brother Robert and I were allowed to take turns in nursing the shoe box.  The little chicks did quite a lot of chirping and scratching on the journey to their new home.  We had to be so careful to keep the box level so that the little balls of fluff did not pile up in a heap at one end of the box.   On arrival at home Mum suggested to Dad that he had better make a woolen mother hen to keep the chicks warm through the frosty night.  Dad obeyed immediately.  He took an old wooden box and made a lid for it.  Then he took an old disused flannelette blanket and cut it into many, many strips long enough to hang down from the lid to almost the bottom of the box.   The chicks at night snuggled up under and amongst the flannelette "feathers" of their make belief foster mother!   They loved it and ate, drank and grew daily.

Soon feathers replaced fluff and the chicks all began to look like budding young lady chooks.  Mum always said, "Fowls boys, call them fowls not chooks!"   It soon became obvious that one young lady was looking more like a young rooster.  He was growing at a faster rate and was developing a huge tail and a red comb on the top of his head.   Dad thought he had been cheated.  He said, "I paid for future laying hens not a rooster."   Mum replied, "Oh Dad, the lady hens will need a man around the yard to protect them from wild animals."  Dad still wanted twelve pullets. 

We fed the growing birds with cracked wheat and green thistles.  A few times a week Dad would serve them up pollard, a meal made from grain.   With this diet and time we had eleven beautiful young pullets and one handsome cockerel.  Pullets were young adult hens ready to start laying eggs.   It was so exciting.  A specially large chick had been named Chickey Lickey when she was quite young, by our Mum.  Our mother noticed that when Chickey Lickey became a pullet she was rather greedy and ate too much pollard.  Now we soon found out that fowls that eat too much pollard can end up with a bowel blockage.  You guessed right.  Chickey Lickey became very ill.  She could not pass any of her bowel movements.   Well, she did not have any movement at all. It was very sad and Dad thought that she would die.

Our mother had other ideas.  She took Chickey Lickey into the old kitchen and placed her in a box and proceeded to put castor oil down the bird's neck via its mouth. Mum spent much time nursing the young pullet.   Well a couple of days went by then all of a sudden Chickey Lickey began to improve in health.   Mum and the pullet by now were on very friendly terms.  Eventually Chickey Licky returned to being a normal healthy pullet.  Our mother discovered that she had a faithful friend.  The pullet followed mother everywhere.  They were the best of companions,  Mum talking bird talk to the fowl and the pullet chortling back with her head cocked to one side with her eye knowingly communicating in friendly thankful bird language.

At eleven a.m. each day, our mother would sit at the end of the table and prepare the vegetables for our lunch.  Chickey Lickey soon noticed this daily ritual so she decided to visit Mum each day to observe Mum at work.   She would flutter off the floor onto the table and squat down right next to mother and cluck away in deep friendly conversation.  Now and then she would pick up a scrap of rejected potato, pumpkin or cabbage.  She only tried onion once but decided that was not for her.  Pumpkin seed kernels were her favourite delicacy.

One day we came home from school to a very excited mother.  She announced to us all that at the evening meal she had an exciting story to tell us about her favourite pullet.

We tried to get mother to tell us right then but she said, "At dinner boys and not before you have completed your chores." We could see that it was no use trying to get the story before completing our work, so we settled down and obeyed our Mum.

We were all seated early at the table for dinner, even Dad.  We all wanted to hear Mum's special news.  "Well" said Dad, "before we say grace let us have your exciting news mother."

"I have renamed Chickey Lickey.  She is now officially Henny Penny.  Today she came to see me at vegetable preparation time and settled down on her haunches and went on with her usual conversation. After about fifteen minutes she stood up and began to cackle vigorously.   Then I saw it, there on the table was her first egg ever.  She laid it for me. I am so excited. The egg was Henny Penney's thank you to mother for saving her life when she nursed her back to good health.

Henny Penny went on for the rest of her life visiting our mother at meal preparation time.  What is more she left a fresh egg almost daily while nestled next to Mum and chatting away.

This article is Copyright © 2012 by George Porter.  Used by permission.

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