Agatha At School

Yesterday Agatha and I spent the day at an elementary school. We met with four groups, about 125 children in all. I read Tillie Lays an Egg. Agatha demonstrated how chickens eat, (No teeth! She grinds food with the rocks in her gizzard!) and drinks (No lips! She tilts her head back!) She also pooped, once while on my lap. For the five-year olds, that might have been the best part. Did you know that birds don’t pee? It all comes out in one plop. That’s a fact that I’m sure those children shared with their parents at dinner that evening.

Agatha was perfect. She was calm and friendly. She let the girls wearing shiny pink hair ribbons know how much she liked their sense of fashion by tilting her head and making happy chuck-chuckles. She also liked the red patterns on the boys’ shirts. Agatha sat on my lap while child after child stepped up and cautiously stroked her feathers with their fingertips.

Not all of my chickens could have done this. Twinkydink doesn’t like to be more than 25 feet from the coop. Florence, Agatha’s Speckled Sussex sister is too active and curious. The Rhode Island Reds peck, and would have scared the children. Agatha is perfect because, and I say this with much affection, she is a bird of especially little brain. When the other chickens react to a sudden movement, Agatha slowly looks around. When they’re out foraging and hear me call and come running, Agatha just keeps on wandering around the yard. She’s also a strangely fussy eater. She doesn’t like to try new foods. This is her best trait. When faced with a little girl in a red-sequined Hello Kitty shirt, Agatha doesn’t think, FOOD! like the other hens would. My guess is that she thinks, OOOH, pretty! Agatha is worth her weight in gold.

I’m booking school and library programs. I also do Skype visits. Contact me if interested.


  1. this is just fantastic :) it’s so wonderful that you do this! and congratulations to Agatha for being such a calm and lovely hen in the face of all that excitement.

  2. What a good girl. I see such differences in my girls but never stopped to think that some might be more intelligent than others, given the fact that they are all bird brains. And I mean that in the nicest way:-) I would love to find information on what the different vocalizations mean.

    • There has been scientific research into chicken vocalizations. Scientists have separated out about two dozen different calls. But, rather than reading those papers, sit with your flock and observe. You’ll see when one makes a noise for a certain bit of food, or to respond to a bully, or when she lays an egg, etc. Also, each individual has their own quantity and loudness of talk. Fascinating!

      • I love all their sounds and they are so different. I can recognize some of their voices. I have a few who have taken to chatter when they get up on the roost at night, before the others settle in. It almost sounds like short morse code and it goes on quite a while. I wonder if they are calling the others in to roost or telling them to stay off their spot. It’s not threatening at all so I’m curious as to the meaning.

    • There was a PBS show a while back about animal vocalizations. Chickens were a part of the show. They gave the vocalizations the different warning calls chickens have. There are two different calls one airborne and one for land based predators. My little Murray is very good at the hawk call and what I mean is he only warns the flock to hawks and not to every single dove that flys over the coop. I’ve had roosters that cry wolf too often and the hens learn this trait will ignore the calls. When Murray lets out the warning the hens immediately bring their heads up and scoot for cover.

      • I love my rooster’s sounds. It’s been so interesting because we have lots of birds that fly around here. He doesn’t sound the alarm to all the turkey vultures, but he can tell when it’s a hawk. They look so much the same flying high in the sky, I don’t know how he can tell the difference.

  3. That is really neat. When “city kids” come out here to visit it’s a toss up whether to see the horses or the chickens first. Chickens are pretty cool!

    • Horses are awe-inspiring and sometimes scary to kids, but the chickens, busy, chatty and small, they intuitively relate to. That said, as kid, and even now, I wouldn’t be able to tear myself away from the horses!

    • It varies by what they eat, how much and the time of day. I think that cockatiels, with their feeder of seed are more consistent eaters.

      • I’ve read varying numbers for the quantity of poop. Studies are old, or on factory farms. I’ve been planning on putting Agatha in a crate for 24 hours and weighing what goes in and what comes out. Anyone out there done that to spare me the experience???

  4. Oh Terry… no I haven’t done the experiment – but it would be interesting to know.

    Those children will probably remember the day the hen came to school, for the rest of their lives. Well done Agatha for representing hens everywhere.


  5. Good Little Agatha. Know I know the Polish would freak out if you took them with you. But do you think Opal or Pearl would do okay as backup actresses ?

    • Pearl is too difficult to get clean and Opal pecks. But Etheldred (the other Speckled Sussex) would probably do just fine.

  6. I love the Sussex birds. I hope to get more in the spring. They have the greatest disposition. Agatha is a star pupil! I always get asked questions like that too, Terry…..”Does the egg come out of the same hole as the poop?” No matter what intesting things I have to say….that one is the most popular….

  7. How cool to teach the kids what chickens are – not just a source of McDonald happy meals! A few years ago there was another woman who had a little rooster named Mr. Chicken and she took him to schools to educate the kids as well. Sadly Mr. Chicken died and i don’t remember who she was, what the blog was or how I even found her.

    Your previous posts about the pups is great. I’ve had (still do) have all kinds of mutts, each with their own personality. Some are more work and some are pure love.

    As far as the hen cam goes – I’m enjoying the variety you’ve been posting.

  8. That is such a neat experience for those children. I too have chickens who have different disposition and I believe I do not have one that calm. I love your cage, perfect.

  9. My son was one of the lucky kids that got to see Agatha- he was spellbound. He told me all about it. I grew up on a farm, so I was so happy he got the chance to interact so closely! He had memorized a chicken joke for the occasion, but he was afraid to tell it….he thought the laughter might scare the chicken :) Thanks so much for making the trip- it’s been very much the talk of our house!

  10. Why do chickens sit on eggs?
    Because they don’t have chairs! (He’s 3.5, and finds himself hilarious :))