Selecting The School Visit Hen

Over the last four years I’ve been doing a storytime program, with a chicken, at schools, libraries and other venues. Although all of my hens are nice girls (well, let’s not count Siouxsie) not all are suitable for a school visit. Not only must the chicken that I bring with me be a good ambassador for chickendom, but she also has to be amendable to sitting on my lap and letting dozens of children pet her. Betsy was one of my best school visit chickens, ever. She was personable, chatty, small (so not intimidating to preschoolers who are small themselves) and never minded little hands stroking her. But, Betsy is old and fragile. She’s retired.

Jasper is one of my friendliest hens, and she doesn’t mind leaving the flock and going for a ride in the car. However, many of the children that I visit have never seen a chicken in real life before. Her visage can be a tad scary. I did bring her on a visit, thinking that her happy personality would make everyone love her. However, it also turns out that when in a classroom she clucks so loudly and constantly that she was a distraction! Jasper stays home.


Pearl is placid and gentle, but those feet! I’ve met some squeamish teachers who wouldn’t be happy about dirty feathered feet in their classrooms (never do the kids worry about such things.)


Likewise, Opal, the Delaware, although as calm as a hen can be, shows dirt on her white feathers. The Speckled Sussex, Etheldred, Florence (seen here) and Agatha, are all wonderfully out-going and friendly, but they tend to pace in the travel crate, so I don’t take them either.

opal and Florence

Siouxsie is simply too weird. It would take up half of the program just to explain that, yes, this is a chicken.


One of my hens does meet my strict criteria for selecting a school visit hen: Amber.

Amber in barn

She is beautiful and calm. Although she is a Buff Orpington, she never goes broody, so is always in a good mood. As soon as she gets into the crate in the car she settles down for the ride. She waits quietly in the hallway before class.

amber in hall

Today she met one hundred kindergartners, who all took turns petting her gently while she sat patiently on my lap. I don’t have a photo of this because schools have policies about publishing pictures of children (and rightly so.) But, believe me when I tell you that there were one hundred smiling faces because of this good hen.

(If you are an educator and are interested in my program, you can read more here.)


  1. Precious Amber. She’s a winner. Siouxsie is blessed to be at your farm, out of crowded conditions and cared for even if she is less than desirable. Too bad they don’t learn from others.
    As a Pre-K teacher I can hardly imagine how awesome it would be to have you visit. Love reading your book to mine and sharing HenCam with them. Children are better for having experienced animals. I am glad that I am aloud gerbils in my room even if the children are no longer allowed to touch them. (District policy). Keep up the great work.

    • Also, I do not feel sorry for Siouxsie. My sister and I say that to each other!

  2. I’ve watched Amber. At night she goes to the top of the roost and settles in with no fuss. She is very calm. But just because we all need someone to support us, I love Siouxsie. If I thought I could still make a car trip I’d take your backyard lessons just so I could see her.

  3. Yep, Siouxsie is totally my favorite. Long may she be the “difficult” hen!

  4. Another successful trip to a school & thank you for your wonderful way of introducing the joys of chickens to children!

  5. Working with kids is so rewarding, and so important for them. They will all remember your visit for a lifetime! When they are adults, every time they see a chicken, the day they petted Amber at school will flash before them! Sharing your love for animals is fun too! Yea Terry!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Ok, Terry, you brought it up….are you absolutely, positively, 100% SURE that Souxsie is indeed a chicken? And if this creature is in fact a chicken, are you sure she has EYES?? I’ve yet to be able to make out eyes under that bouffant of hers…. It would go a long way to explaining her silly behavior if she really couldn’t see how naughty she really is! That said, I can’t resist watching her jostle for a resting position at night. She is such a nut.

    • I’ve trimmed her top knot and have found eyes. Whether they’re connected to her brain is another story.

  7. Good for Amber! She is indeed a patient, lovely hen. Maybe the Speckled Sussex just don’t like your driving Terry ;) I had high hopes that Agatha would shine as one of your school chickens. I wonder if Owly will eventually enjoy the role?

  8. I love buff Orpingtons <3 Mine is such a beautifully, calm cuddler :)

    All of your gals are lovely Terry x

  9. Amber is such a calm chicken, but still vote or Siouxie to get to go to school!!

  10. How fun for Amber. She must have gotten all tuckered out. She is ready for bed time already, there she is on the top roosting spot. She deserves it for being such a ambassador!

  11. I’m sure I wouldn’t have dealt with 100 children with as much equanimity as Amber or you. But Betsey is white. Did she somehow stay cleaner than Opal? Are we becoming more earth-clinging-to-feathers averse?

    • Betsy is a dainty and tidy little hen. Once in awhile she’d look dirty, but her feathers are hard and easy to wipe clean.

  12. Oh Siouxsie …….. you just peck and cluck to a different drum!

  13. I’ve taken my Buff Orp, Peach, to my preschool class as well. I read your book “Tillie Lays An Egg”. Peach hangs out in a big dog crate, and goes out on the playground with us, although she gets to be on the grassy hill on the other side of the fence. It’s amazing to see the interactions! I’ve had some kids who constantly want to hang out near Peach. They will show her the pictures in the book they’re looking at, and tell her what they brought for lunch that day. How special animals are in our lives!

  14. I am so happy your Buff Orps are nice and gentle, Mine is probably the equivelent to Siouxsie, I will never get this breed again, she is just sketchy and skiddish and she screams like a little girl, it;s scarey…

    • Oh, Jonathan, there’s always one in the bunch that doesn’t act true to breed. I feel the same about Wyandottes.

  15. Hi Terri,

    I think you might be have mistakenly indicated Opal as Pearl in the blog post. Opal appears twice. Pearl is one of my favs with her feathered legs and waddle so I tend to pay more attention to her references!

  16. What a great blog Terry! I always brought a banty for show and tell. Easy to transport and very calm. I did have a rooster named “Mr. Rogers”….that indeed have a personality like the famous Mr. Rogers. He would sit calmly on the back of a chair and look around and once in a while let a cock-a-doodle-doo..the kids loved him.

  17. This is so great. And as I read your list of qualifications (and un-) for school-visiting hens, it occurred to me that this might be a good checklist for potential husbands (wives?):
    Enjoys car rides (doesn’t pace during travel)
    Happy personality
    No visible dirt
    Quiet (no loud clucking)
    Not too weird
    Never goes broody (probably applies more to potential husbands than wives)
    and, my favorite:
    Waits quietly between classes.
    When I first met my husband, we were in college. He fell so hard for me he immediately abandoned his own class schedule and began accompanying me to all of mine. He waited outside each classroom, then led/followed me to the next. He nearly flunked out, but convinced me of his devotion and dedication. I married him and he not only never goes broody but he is a fabulous travel companion, cleans up well after playing in the mud (mountain biking) and he is really not that weird at all.
    Thanks for a wonderful post, and of course, for your inimitable services to the chickens and children of the greater Boston area as a chicken ambassador!

    • Sweet. I think the biggest criteria for marriage is – is your partner *nice.* Sounds like you found one.

  18. I’m a first time Chicken Mama, my little ones are only 6 weeks at the moment. But I have quickly realized that my Emma, a Buff Orpington, is definitely the sweetheart of the group. She is always the first to greet me, and she doesn’t seem to mind being held at all. She even started this sweet content little cluck yesterday while I was holding her.

  19. What a great story. Although I enjoy all of your hens, young and older, it does take a certain one to be able to handle many young kids. Amber looks quite calm yet content in the crate. I am glad you had such a great experience and what sounds like a good day too.