…..as told by Checkers
I’d heard of it. This faraway place called ‘Hampton’. A historical place, one of quiet contemplation. A place with lots of trees and farms and where chickens run free. Although my sisters and I loved our home, we dreamed of seeing this ‘Hampton’.
It was springtime and an ordinary evening. We were all perched contently in our coop and just about to fall asleep when the door to our house opened. Us chickens can’t see very well in the dark so we couldn’t tell what was going on. I heard Mom’s voice and two other voices cooing at us softly. All of a sudden, Porridge and I were being lifted from our cozy perch and being positioned carefully in a box with holes in it. The new lady told us not to worry and that she’d take good care of us. The girl’s voice was reassuring. She sang to us as we drove off. I don’t remember much after that.
When Porridge and I woke up the next morning, we were in a little coop of our own. “How did we get here?” I asked Porridge.
“Haven’t we been here all along?” she replied.
Now I know chickens don’t have good memories, but I just knew that something was different. And there it was…a ROOSTER! I had never seen a rooster before. He strutted proudly around his ladies and then over to us. Then all three hens ran over to inspect Porridge and me. It was overwhelming, but we felt safe in our separate enclosure. That rooster was not scary at all. He picked up bugs and gave them to us through the fence. He clucked soothingly at us while trying to find a way into our coop. It was the other three we needed to be weary of. They were all talking at once.
“Jack! Look at me,” called one.
“Oh Jaaa-aack, I found a juicy worm for you,” squawked the other.
The third one was pacing back and forth along our fence line, not looking very friendly. “Geez Checkers,” Porridge said to me. “Why is everyone so cranky today?” She was still under the delusion that we had lived here our whole lives.
A few days went by and one by one the three hens came to visit us and chat. The one everybody called ‘Gertrude’ introduced herself first. “I’m Gert,” she announced in a stern voice, “Second in command here. You need anything, you come see me”. Satisfied that she’d set the record straight, she marched back to the coop for a bite to eat.
Chocolate Chip was next. We knew her name because as she spread her wings and flew over, she shouted, “I’m Chocolate Chiiiip!” She was beautiful. Chocolate Chip’s clucks sounded more like a goose honking.
Porridge and Chocolate hit it off instantly. “You’re lots of fun,” Porridge called to her as Chocolate spread her wings again and took off across the yard. She doesn’t sit still for very long, I thought to myself. The last one didn’t come. “What’s your name?” Porridge called over to her. She did not reply. As Chocolate ran by while chasing a bug, she answered, “that’s Brownie!”
“Hi Brownie, I’m Checkers and this is Porridge.” Brownie walked over. “What’s up?” I asked, trying to sound upbeat.
“All I want is to be a Mommy,” Brownie sulked. “I was a Mommy last year and I want to be a Mommy this year.”
“Where are your babies now?” Porridge inquired.
Brownie explained that she had sat on many eggs but none of them had hatched. She said she was able to be a foster Mom to five yellow, fluffy baby chicks and that she had been so very happy. “But the chicks grew so fast that soon they were bigger than me and I couldn’t take care of them anymore. They turned pure white. I think Mom and Dad took them to a new home because one day they just weren’t here anymore. Now I’m ready for some more tiny, baby chicks”.
I told Brownie that I was sorry she was lonely for babies. She asked if she could be my Mom. I’m not a baby and way too big for a Mommy. Besides, I have my human Mom. Brownie looked sad. “Can I be your best friend then?”
“Well Porridge is my best friend,” I answered. Brownie sighed and started to walk away. “You know what I do need?” I said. She looked over at me cautiously. “I’m a little homesick for my sisters from my birth coop. Would you mind, terribly, being my big sister?”
Brownie ran over to me, spread her wings over us as if to make an umbrella and replied, “Love you little sis!”
“Love you too big sis,” I clucked.
The next day was a big day for everyone. Mom let us out of our fenced in yard and we were free to explore. Jack took us around front and down the driveway. There were all kinds of cool plants to chew on and delicious bugs to eat. Seemed like we were exploring for hours. Gert found a nice place under the trees for us and we all sat down to rest and take a nap. Chocolate Chip was sound asleep and snoring. She didn’t hear us yelling “Hawk!” By the time Mom ran down to rescue us, it was too late. All of us ran in different directions. Mom cried. She said goodbye and then buried Chocolate Chip. We’ll miss her free spirit and happy outlook. That was a very sad day.
We’ve had so many adventures here in Hampton. One night at dusk, we heard a truck driving closer and closer to our coop. We looked out the window and saw our Mom and Dad moving some big white box into the yard. We could barely hear them talking but we learned that there were bees in that box. The light on the side of the big house was on so we could see what was happening. The box had a strap all the way around it to keep it closed. Two long wooden poles were on each side so it could be easily carried. Mom and Dad were being very quiet and very careful. They set the box down on a stack of cement blocks and gently removed the wooden poles and strap. There was a screen blocking the doorway. It was there so no bees would come out and get disoriented. I heard Mom say she’d wait till morning to remove it. “How exciting,” I said.
“Yes,” said Gert,“but we mustn’t eat them! That bunch is part of our family now.” All of us shook our heads in agreement.
So now, I’m the one who lives in this faraway place called Hampton. With my new flock and my new family and that busy colony of bees. With happy times and with sad times. Fun days and boring days. Everything I’d heard about this place is true. It is quiet. I have plenty of time to rest and to think. The trees are plentiful. Treats from the garden are plentiful. Mom’s given us the whole side yard to play in so we run free every day. My dream of seeing this ‘Hampton’ has finally come true. And that’s the truth — not just ‘a chicken story’.
Very lovingly dedicated to Sharon, Al, Terry and all our beloved departed who’ve left us too soon. We miss you!