On Sharing a Hen, and Sharing Eggs

On Sharing a Hen, and Sharing Eggs November 13, 2023


The hen house blew away on Saturday night.

A friend sent a small bale of straw and a little thermal cloth cat house to keep outside, in case Rhonda the neighborhood hen needed a place to stay at night. Adrienne and I had fun setting it up, but Rhonda would not go inside. Rhonda preferred to hunker down under bushes.

On Saturday evening into Sunday morning, it was windy in LaBelle. The hiding trees which the landlord still hasn’t trimmed yet squeaked and squealed against the siding, making the whole house feel like a ship in a gale. I burrowed under my quilts. The next morning, Adrienne came out to find that the planters and the empty wading pool I had used to weigh down the cardboard on the vegetable patch had blown around the yard, and the little house was nowhere to be found.

We brought Lady Mcfluff the guinea pig out to graze on the front lawn under her laundry basket, and searched high and low for the missing house.

I had a terrible mental image of the house blowing away with Rhonda in it, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, even though she didn’t like sleeping there.

Eventually, we gave it up for lost. The terrycloth structure was gone, and the hen didn’t seem to be anywhere nearby either. Perhaps her real owners had finally come to claim her. Perhaps one of the visiting cats or a raccoon had found an easy dinner. Maybe she’d even wandered into one of the backyards of people who keep pit bulls.

On a whim, I rustled the branches under the hemlock tree that belongs to the man who brought water.

“Rhonda?” I called.

‘Bwock BWOCK!” grumbled the hemlock tree.

I looked around, but couldn’t see her. Her brown and gray feathers are the same color as dropped hemlock needles against hemlock roots.

“I’m sorry Rhonda,” I explained to the hemlock tree. “I just wanted to see how you were.”

“Bwock BWOCK!” the tree replied.

Later that Sunday, I looked around the roots of the tree to see if she’d laid any eggs for me, but there were none. I went to bed lamenting the lack of nice brown yard-fed eggs, relative to the number of chickens on my block.

The next day was Monday, and we were desperately low on groceries. We had a little money from my tip jar, but it wasn’t enough to buy all the things we needed, especially with rent coming up on the fifteenth and Thanksgiving next week.  I ended up going to the food pantry to see what they had, kicking myself for ending up there again, poking around the boxes of free zucchini to find the least bruised one.

The last thing in the line of items they give away at the food pantry, is the fridge. Some days, the fridge is empty. Somedays it has nothing but wilted salads and sticks of margarine. Sometimes it has a treat like little packages of the really good name brand sour cream.

Today, it had several packages of nice brown yard-fed eggs. They were speckled and oddly shaped, in cardboard boxes that bore the name of a local farmer.

It felt like a sign from a God of Justice. I’d shown the chicken hospitality and now I had far more eggs than one hen could give me.

I got Adrienne from school and came back. There was Rhonda the hen, browsing around the tulip planters.

The same friend had sent a big bag of chicken feed to me, but the feed was mostly granules of wheat, and I’m allergic to wheat. The last time I kneaded a wheat based dough was twelve years ago when it gave me an agonizing rash all over my hands. When I breathe in flour in the air I get sick. I eat scrupulously wheat free and gluten free and I couldn’t even let Adrienne play with Play-doh when she was little.

I remembered Holly the witch saying that she sometimes fed her chickens scrambled eggs for a treat.

The idea of eggs for a chicken was a little off-putting, but then again it makes sense. After all, it’s the perfect replacement protein for something that lays an egg every day.

I ran inside and whipped up two scrambled eggs for Rhonda. I even seasoned them, out of habit, before I remembered that I don’t think hens care if the eggs are salty enough.

I brought out the eggs and called “chook chook!” the way Holly does.

Rhonda started back towards the street.

I threw her a spoonful of egg.

She stepped up tentatively, then darted out with her beak and gobbled it.

I threw another spoonful, closer this time.

She stepped up again and pecked it.

I set down the plate near where Adrienne and I were sitting.

She enjoyed every bite, stopping now and then to noisily wipe her beak on the sidewalk. Then she went back to the hemlock tree.

Later that evening, the neighbors came home. I brought them the bag of chicken feed and explained my predicament. They agreed to leave some out for Rhonda themselves. They’ll be her foster parents and I’ll be the strange chicken auntie who treats her to eggs when she visits.

Somewhere in all of this– in sharing a home, and in needing mercy, in getting just what you need, in neighbors coming together to share a pet– somewhere in this is the Kingdom of Heaven.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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