Agatha’s Turn

Today I am putting Agatha in the car and driving 38 miles to visit about 150 pre-K and kindergarten children. I’m looking forward to it. Agatha doesn’t know to look forward to anything that will happen more than ten seconds beyond the immediate moment,

but I do know that when she is at the school and sees little girls in sparkly shirts, and is pet by little gentle boys in awe, she will be a content hen.

This is the first time that I have not brought one of my actresses who play Tillie with me. Snowball was the first, and greatest, of the Bantam White Leghorns. Then came Betsy, Eggers and Coco. Betsy is the only one left. I’ve decided to retire her because during the last school visit she just wasn’t enjoying herself. It might have been because she was starting to molt, which will make anyone, literally, prickly.

But, I could tell it was more than that. How can I tell if a chicken is “happy?” What is happy for a chicken anyway? Who knows? A chicken’s mind is not a human’s mind. There are biological similarities. There are differences. I can’t read her thoughts, but I can read her body language. In her prime, on school visits, Betsy acted like a diva, with a “stare at my beauty” stance. Betsy’s tail would be upright, her head high. She was active, eating, and casting beady stares at everything new. When I took her out of her crate and perched her on my arm, she’d stay put, expecting the handful of grain she knew was coming. She let each child stroke her, looking carefully at each one, and talking in a low chortling voice. Back in the crate she’d eat some more, then settle down as if she was calmly sitting on a nest. But, this past autumn, I took her to a school and her tail was down. She didn’t eagerly look at the children. She didn’t want to perch on my arm. If she had suddenly started speaking in English Betsy couldn’t have been clearer. It was time to retire. Agatha was ready in the wings – actually in her travel crate – I’d brought her as a backup. As child after child came up to pet her, Agatha sat contentedly in my lap, chortling greetings to each. A new star was born.

So, Agatha will be in the car today, not Betsy. We’re going to have fun.


  1. It is so wonderful that you do this! And I just know hte kids will adore Agatha; how could you not? She’s absolutely gorgeous! We will miss her on the cam today :)

  2. I imagine many of the children have never been that close to a chicken before! That is wonderful that you give them that experience. Have a wonderful trip!

  3. Agatha has such a perfect hen face… she’s a natural.

    I wonder if a hen feels like what children expect she’ll feel like, if they’ve never touched a hen before? Hen’s feathers are so silky and they feel so padded like a firm but comfortable pillow.

    Have fun.

  4. In our county, every March, we have an Ag Day at our fairgrounds. All of the 4th & 5th graders in our county (it’s a small county…) come to see different agriculture displays. My 11 year old daughter has participated for the last 3 years, taking a couple of her girls to show and teach other kids about the rewards of owning chickens. Just like you, she loves share her passion for her birds and maybe create some new chicken lovers in the process. It’s fun for me just watching my daughter share her ever-growing knowledge.

  5. I wonder how the loss of Coco has affected Betsy? I know that hens will have a sense of loss, but I wonder if she was in mouring for losing her pal?

    Agatha is georgeous. Ah..youth! I take it she has the curiosity of Lulu without the whackiness?

    • The first day or two after losing their favorite flock mate can be unsettling for a chicken. The pecking order is in disarray. Once that settles all is usually fine. Betsy was retired because she was looking tired. Sadly, these bantam White Leghorns don’t have long lifespans, and I didn’t want to stress her.

  6. Good on Agatha. Will any of her Sussex sisters be joining her as a back up star ?

  7. How fun is that for Agatha! I see you have some snow there. We finally received a substantial amount of snow on Saturday, 01/07/2012. Agatha, you are a STAR!