At one time most people kept utility birds. They were thrifty, hardy chickens that did well scratching around a barnyard. No one went to the expense of buying feed for them. They brooded their chicks so the farmer would always have a few new birds each year. They weren’t particularly productive – I’ve read accounts that they laid only 90 eggs per year – but they were inexpensive to get and to keep.
I think that the illustrated hen is beautiful, so I quite disagree with the poem!