The Crowing Hen
Henny Penny was one of my very first chickens. She was a farmyard mix banty hen. Tiny, nondescript, light brown, pointy comb, and a little bit on the plump side, basically she was your standard hen. As soon as Henny Penny was old enough, she settled down to raise a family. On the night that the eggs hatched, disaster struck. A raccoon, those nasty bandits that plague farmers in our parts, broke into her home and slaughtered all but one of her chicks, and attempted to kill mum too. I don't know what raccoons are like elsewhere in the world, but the ones we have here are vicious - murdering for fun or eating their dinner alive. It was impossible that a chicken could survive an attack like this, let alone a mum AND a chick. But they did, and the next night when we found the bandit, we discovered why. We found the raccoon, battered and pecked to near death. The chicken had successfully fought off the monster. That is one heck of a hen.
But she suffered for her bravery, with massive injuries including a bite through the head. Survival looked unlikely, but chickens are amazing creatures. Henny Penny already proved she could achieve one impossible task. We asked her to do another: live. And she did. She spent nearly six months in 'hospital' before she was ready to venture out into the farmyard again. When she did, Henny Penny was a changed hen. Lacking all ability to be mean to other chickens, she instead became a nurse to the injured and defender of the bullied.
Another strange personality trait materialised. She was my first crowing hen. Hens do crow from time to time. If there is no rooster (head of the roost - there is only one rooster in a flock, like a mayor of a city), then a hen might assume that role. There are other reasons why a hen might adapt male behaviour like crowing, but none of these seemed to apply to Henny Penny. One morning she started crowing on the front doorstep, and she kept crowing from dawn to dusk, stopping only for a drink of water. For three days. And then suddenly she stopped. We discovered that it was at that exact moment on the 11th of March, 2011, that a major earthquake hit Japan. It seemed a strange coincidence at the time, but we thought nothing of it until she started crowing again. Same as before, all day, for three days, then a big earthquake somewhere on the Pacific Rim. Again and again. Seven major earthquakes predicted by Henny Penny, with only one false alarm.
Sadly, Henny Penny is no longer with us, but I remember her fondly. Friend and defender of the picked on, violent threat to any predator that imagined her flock easy prey, she was the doer of impossible things, and I have named my farm, and my book series in her honour.
Raven Ranson spins yarn, weaves cloth, collaborates with sheep, wrangles llamas, hugs alpacas, weeds flax, and conspires with cotton on the family farm off the left coast of Canada.
Crowing Hen Farm is a small, family farm off the left coast of Canada. We use the wisdom of our ancestors and traditional (pre-industrial) methods taught by the boy Sid, who farmed in Suffolk in a time before tractors or chemical agriculture. We experiment with old knowledge and new techniques, trying new crops, new ideas, and dabbling in permaculture to find a new, sustainable way of growing food and clothing. Working with nature to reduce inputs like irrigation, we learn new things daily and are always happy to teach.
The animals are the lifeblood of the farm. Many come from rescue situations - snatched on the way to the abattoir or saved from abusive backgrounds. Each critter has a job on the farm according to its nature. Sheep and geese are tasked with mowing the lawn; chickens and ducks, pest management; goats are the invasive species removal crew; and the alpacas and llama guard against intruders.