The three farmers today wanted to come straight into the chicken playpen-coup and see the hens up close. Two wanted to hold Goldie while another stroked and petted Sunshine as I held her for them to see.
Farmer 1: Why do they like to peck our shoes? Why do they like some shoes and not others? Do they ever peck your leg.
Farmer 2: “Ouch! she just pecked my arm. It scared me more than it hurt. It’s like a pinch.”
Farmer 3: I like little Peanut best. She’s cute.
Barbara: The kids were thrilled when Goldie went missing because that meant she was in the coop laying an egg. We all left the playpen and quietly made our way to they hatchery. Gently, one farmer unlocked the door. There sat Goldie. We talked about leaving the hens alone when they were working on an egg.
Goldie came out but the kids discovered that she had not laid an egg.
Each morning three new farmers comes to the garden. All meet and observe Goldie, Sunshine, Blackie, Peanut and Brownie. Along the way they have lots of questions and thoughts.
Farmer 1: Peanut is the smallest chicken and she left the playpen to lay an egg in the coop. We waited a few minutes then opened the door. Barbara told us to be quiet and thoughtful of Peanut’s privacy. Goldie ran up the ramp and stayed to protect Peanut. Goldie and the other hens will trust us more once they get to know us.
I can’t wait to see the egg.
Farmer 2: Brownie, Goldie and Blackie came to Ms. Siskin’s class when they were tiny chicks. Her kids raised them until they were big enough to live alone in a small coop. They are four years old now.
Farmer 3: Brownie is different from all the other hens because she doesn’t have a comb on her head. There is just a little colored bump.
Barbara: Today’s farmers were filled with questions. Here are a few.
Question: How many hens do we have?
Question: Do they all lay eggs?
Answer: No. Brownie and Blackie stopped laying eggs two years ago. Goldie, Peanut and Sunshine produces about five eggs each per week. That’s 15 total. Goldie’s eggs are brown and bigger than Sunshine and Peanut’s pinkish-white ones.
Question: Why do the chickens peck?
Answer: Mainly they peck to clean things off of your shoes and pants. The hens also show their dislike of very loud voices, screaming and rough-treatment by pecking. Sunshine is the warrior chicken–head hen (although, Blackie would have something to say about that) and will peck anyone she perceives hurting any of her girls.
Question: Does the egg come from their poop hole?
Question: How long does it take to lay an egg?
Answer: That depends. Most days, Goldie, Sunshine or Peanut disappears in to the coop for 15-20 minutes. If bothered during their process, they stop and then resume later when it’s quiet.
Question: Why do they sometimes run to their coop when we are here?
Answer: It is their safe place where kids are not allowed. Just like people, the hens get stressed, scared or bored and want to be quiet.
The garden hens know how to put on a show and thrill the new students. Today’s assignment was to observe the chickens and get a sense of how they move, play and relate to each other and the farmers.
Farmer 1: Peanut is the smallest chicken. She runs very fast even though she only has 3-1/2 toes.
Blackie is the head-chicken but Sunshine thinks that she is.
Farmer 2: Brownie is one of the older chickens. She likes to dig holes in the garden, eat bugs and have dirt baths. I found a brown feather in the coop and I’m going to keep it.
Farmer 3: Peanut laid an egg. It was warm so we all held it.
Barbara: I often find that most students have never seen or held a live chicken. They greet them happily but with a bit of apprehension that soon turns to love once they build trust.
Today, the kids followed the hens around the garden and watched them dig, play and frolic in the warm sun.
They learned that these small beings like to be treated with respect and talked to in a quiet voice. No screaming, yelling, fast-movements or chasing.
The kids discovered that freshly laid eggs are hot not cold like a supermarket eggs.
I told them stories about the older hens (Goldie, Blackie and Brownie) from the time they were tiny fluff balls being raised by Ms. Siskin’s class four years ago. “More, more!” They beamed when told that Sunshine and Peanut joined the coop last year as chicks and were raised by Siskin’s then third-graders.
In a short time the chickens and the kids started bonding. They should all be good buddies in the next several weeks.
Rats! The garden has an entire family. They are always hungry but more so in the drought.
We’ve planted and covered the lettuce bed twice but the clever little chaps found a way in and devoured everything. They also ate the beets and nibble on all of the squash. Mind you, they never eat the whole squash but mark each with big, gnarly teeth marks. So far, they are not interested in the tomatoes.
On a happier note, the garden is filled with blooming sunflowers. A number of of kids have visited in the last two weeks and were thrilled to see that their tiny seeds sprouted and grew into spectacular plants. They also know that the rats ate lots of their sunflowers seedlings before tiring of them. Next year we are going to design a small plastic barrier for each seedling so they will grow tall quickly without fear of attack.
Rats beware, You need to find a new eating place quickly.