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Hens Transform Backyard to Barnyard

Over my husband's loud protestations, we recently became the proud parents of four hens. My neighbor, Irene Cronkrite , who was featured on this page not long ago, asked if we'd adopt her "girls," as she was moving out of state.

I wasn't too sure what to expect of a bunch of hens. Eggs, obviously, but I hadn't counted on the entertainment factor. Gloria, Red, Oreo and Flower are friendly - and simply hilarious. Who knew that chickens had different personalities?

Gloria is the friendliest and likes to be stroked, squatting down with her tail in the air like a cat. Flower becomes catatonic with pleasure if you stroke her ears. Red seems to think she's at the top of the "pecking order" and attacks the others if they get attention before she does. Oreo is the real boss. She thinks she's a rooster.

According to Annie Farrell of Millstone Farm, an expert on everything there is to know about backyard farming and chickens, "If there's no rooster, one of the hens will pretend to be one." Oreo struts around, head high, tail feathers erect, making an irritating squawk, like a rooster with a sore throat.

Hens aren't particularly fussy about what they eat as long as they can eat all day long. Whenever I open the back door, they all dash to the front of their enclosure hoping I have a tasty tidbit for them. They love nothing better than a juicy earthworm though their regular diet is chicken feed and cracked corn from Agway. They're inordinately fond of pasta and rice, and I discovered, quite by accident, that they prefer Gorgonzola to watermelon. But if you want to win the heart of a chicken, stock up on blueberries and grapes. They simply adore them.

Even Peter, my husband, has gotten into the spirit of being a backyard farmer, swayed to some extent by the delicious eggs our girls lay. I wish he liked honey, because I'm thinking of getting a beehive next.

Have you ever thought about keeping chickens?

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