The year was 1968 and I was the apple of my grandma’s eye. My grandpa had passed away and my grandma was living in an old white shotgun style farm house out in the Florida sticks, on the little farm that raised great fields of peas and huge patches of watermelon all flourishing under grandma’s care. Grandma raised her own hogs and chickens and if I awoke early enough I was allowed to collect the eggs from the nests in the hen house.
I can remember hesitantly putting my hand in the nest and rousing the fat hen sitting there. Her feathers soft and warm and the single egg she sat upon nestled safely in her feathers. I can remember making eye contact with a hen now and then, the hen would cluck, cluck which I thought was their way of telling me that she wanted to set on her nest and hatch that egg.
Grandma did let hens set, usually it was a wayward hen that had stole away and built her own nest up under something that couldn’t be reached to remove the eggs. When this would happen we would walk by and grandma would point out the nest and tell me that in 28 days we would have some chicks.
I would come out to grandma’s each weekend like clockwork and when the time got close I would find a place near by and silently watch for any signs of the chicks. Long sunny days seemed even longer in the moist Florida heat but I was vigilant.
One Sunday after returning from Sunday school we rushed into the house put on our play clothes and ran outside to find that new tiny chicks were walking out from under the little travel trailer the red hen had nested under. I stopped in my tracks and watched.
The proud mother hen would scratch the ground and peck, peck at it. The watching and eager little chicks would soon mimic the hen doing as she did. How precious were these small fluffy chicks, perfect in everyway; and how very proud the hen seemed as she strutted around the yard.
The other hens in the hen house were keenly aware of the masterful coup that the fat red hen had pulled off. She’d escaped the daily grind and set her nest and was now the proud mother of some 15 chicks. When the other hens would get close to the little chicks they would stare at them as if they were some prized possession and sometimes even try to steal one off for themselves.
After a couple of weeks the hens’ chicks were getting a little bigger they were put into the hen house at night to protect them. Each day the hens and chicks were set free to the barn yard and each evening they were fed back into their house to roost and lay their eggs for us.
The next time I was at grandma’s house and got up early enough to collect the eggs I was amazed at how fast the little chicks had grown. They were almost as big as their mother already. I looked around for the fat red hen; she was nowhere to be found. I collected the eggs and went back into the kitchen where grandma was making bacon and oatmeal with toast for breakfast. Grandma I asked, what happened to the red hen? She just laughed and shook her head, she is setting a nest again, that little thing just wants to be a momma I guess. I smiled, "I guess" I said.
It is Free