I have a favorite chicken. Ssssshhhh! Don’t tell the rest of the flock. Much like parents aren’t supposed to have a favorite kid, I worry that I’m not supposed to have a favorite chicken. However, I do.
Her name is Penny.
Penny came to us a little over a year into our chicken-keeping adventure. We had started putting out extra eggs for sale and soon the demand outweighed our supply. My husband saw an ad to purchase started pullets and suggested we get some. We ordered 13 to add to our flock.
We received word and drove out on a sunny September day to pick them up. After an hour of driving through some rolling upstate New York countryside, we arrived at what looked like a non-working farm. A tractor-trailer was stacked with bunches and bunches of poultry crates. Each crate probably had a dozen birds, if not more, crammed into it! All the birds had trimmed beaks. I wanted to cry.
We arrived home and released the birds into our smaller quarantine run. These birds were TERRIFIED. They were, quite simply, afraid of everything. I couldn’t even get near them. My heart was broken.
Every day, I spent some time sitting in their run just letting them get used to me being around. One bird in particular had caught my eye because her feathers were exactly the coppery color of an old penny.
Over time, most of the pullets – we called them the Beakers – got somewhat used to me being around. They weren’t exactly friendly, but at least they didn’t flee in panic from me. However, that penny-colored pullet was just a bit friendlier than the rest.
That’s how Penny and I met. That was in September of 2015. It wasn’t long before she would become my favorite chicken.
Over the years since, our bond has deepened tremendously. She knows her name, she seeks me out for affection and attention, and she likes to take selfies on my phone. I’m not even kidding about that last one.
Whether it is just to say good morning or good night, Penny and I interact every single day. She is the only chicken in my flock that I can, without fail, walk up to and pick up. In fact, I can hold her just about any way I want, and she lets me.
I think the deep level of trust she has in me comes from two things.
First, just over two years ago, I did surgery on Penny to relieve an impacted crop. I noticed her skinny and bedraggled looking one morning. A quick check revealed a very full crop. While had tried this surgery a few times before, it wasn’t successful. I was terrified I was going to kill her, but even more terrified she would die anyway if I didn’t try. I fixed her crop up, put her in a small crate to recover, and carefully watched her. After a little while, she ate, she drank, and she pooped. After repeating this process for a few days, I started to think she would make it. I’m so very glad she did!
It sounds a little silly to say out loud, but I think she knows I saved her life and is thankful.
The second reason is simple. I truly believe she knows that I love her, that I would never harm her.
This level of trust is a beautiful thing. It creates a bond that is hard to describe. Penny will sleep in my lap. She will follow me around the yard when I’m doing things. Penny will come when I call her name. She tugs on my pant cuff or shoes when she wants attention.
Penny is now just over 4 years old. She hasn’t laid an egg since her crop surgery. Every few months, her body tries to produce an egg. She gets skinny. Every time, I’m terrified she will die. Eventually, it passes, and she’s back to her normal self. Penny is the only one of the Beakers still here.
She knows she is the favorite chicken and uses it to brutal advantage with the rest of the flock. Penny pushes everyone else out of the way if it’s treat time. She has even faked a limp to get a treat. I’m not even kidding!
She’s getting older. I know my time with her is limited. That’s why I threw off my guilt of having a favorite chicken. Penny owns a piece of my heart, and I plan to treasure every day I have with her.
Traci DeLore grew up around chickens on her family’s farm, but didn’t start keeping her own chickens until she was in her 40s. Her desire to keep chickens came from a desire to have her own fresh eggs from chickens she knew were well cared for and happy. Traci started with six chickens – and then chicken math took over. These days, she has about 60 chickens — and three “rotten” ducks. (I say this because having ducks is like living with toddlers.) Traci also raises and processes her own meat chickens on occasion.