Ten Hens and One Rooster

I had lots of weird pets when I was little, they’d never get me a dog, so I had to satisfy myself with various creepy creatures.  For a while I had a small tank of tiny eels that I caught at a river, together with a bunch of teeny frogs that had just grown legs, and loved to jump out of the tank.  I also had a bat for a few days, which was the main reason I bought my wife a stuffed bat from IKEA a couple of years ago.  But by far the largest pets I had were three chickens, and a little duck.  Unfortunately, these grew up fast, and we had to give them away. I mean, they were never pets really; they didn’t have fur or follow you around.  Pure frustration for a 12-year-old boy…

Ten Hens and One Rooster from Aglaia on Vimeo.

All this came back to me the other day, when our neighbors left for about a month and asked me to take care of their hens.  It wasn’t much trouble, plus we’d get the eggs –and you can’t imagine how six eggs a day can multiply…

Hens are interesting animals!  They don’t look like they would be, but –to borrow a friend’s expression on a slightly different subject– if you look at them really hard they are. Already from the second or third day I started to see the differences in the personalities of the ten hens and the rooster I was feeding.  I even named some of them.


Nine of my ten hens are brown, various hues, and one is white.  The white one is an adventurous spirit, running away from the lot with a couple of her friends, always the same ones.  Among them a small-sized brownie with some strange white spots on her back, plucked feathers really that are trying to grow back without much success.  These three are the last to get back to the coop in the evenings, making my life difficult as I look for them eagerly around the property, going “shoo shoo shoo…” to scare them in.

Another one is quite tame, often letting me hold her for a while –the one I’m holding in the video.  She is warm and soft, especially under her wings, and has a very inviting smell.  But, my all favorite is Mina, an old big hen, too old to lay eggs.  “Mina” is short for “menopause,” and she really is a troubled one, her hormones causing her to brood on the others’ eggs.  She’ll just sit on the eggs for hours.  She is big with fluffy thighs, not particularly sociable, actually quite goofy, and scared of her own shadow.  Her voice is funny too, a very inconspicuous cooooo; and she keeps her beak half open most of the time, an indication of fear mixed with an attempt to defend herself, I think.  Mina loves to sand bathe, and is responsible for most of the little craters around the neighbors’ land, at the warmest, sandiest spots.  She makes me want to tease her as she always goes to the wrong direction, infuriating the rooster who runs after her, gets her to lie down and pinches her on the head.


Hens are intrinsically stupid, but they’re smart too: first thing they do when I open the gate in the morning to let them out, they run to the cat food plate.  Cats are afraid of them, and let them eat from their bowl without even the slightest effort to defend their food.  I shoo shoo them away, but they fearlessly return to the cat bowl for more.  The other day I caught one of them in my hands just as she was biting a big chunk of canned cat food, and she tightly kept the morsel in her beak neither swallowing it nor letting go, until she suddenly gulped it all with a quick quirky shake of her head.   As I was observing her orange round eyes it dawned on me: your brain must get really confused if your eyes are stuck on the sides of your head, probably making it too hard to focus.  And this must be why my Mina goes the wrong way all the time.

The rooster amazes me!   I named him Stathi, after our neighbor, for no particular reason other than the fact that he belongs to Stathi.  He is a great rooster, and although he does not seem particularly happy to share his rule over the hens with me, he always cooperates, running after the delinquents who refuse to get back in the coop.  Once, he actually went out of the cage again to collect two strays –guess who: little Miss White and her spotted friend.  He found them, and brought them back where they should be, pinching each one on the head as they were going “puck puck puck…” in panic.  I am inclined to believe that this is not just his way to chastise them, but, more importantly, a way of showing me that these are HIS hens, for him alone, and that I do not have any rights over them –definitely not sexual rights anyway– but I may remove the eggs everyday if I want. Apparently, he doesn’t want any offspring running around his feet; at least not at the moment…


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