Meet the New Girl: Bernice

There’s a new girl in the flock!

New Hampshire Red hen


Those of you who follow my Facebook page may have seen my post announcing the addition of a new chicken to the Counting My Hens flock. Bernice came home with me on Monday. This is her story.

Jen’s Home for Wayward Animals

Bernice came to me by way of my sister-in-law Jen, who has been my chicken source (and mentor) since day one. Jen lives on the cutest little hobby farm north of Cedar Rapids, where she keeps sheep, mini-donks (yes!) and, of course, chickens. I like to call it Jen’s Home for Wayward Animals because homeless pets always seem to make their way there, be they cats or dogs or the occasional llama.

Every few years, Jen orders a batch of baby chicks from the hatchery, broods them out, and gives me however many I need for my flock. Mabel, Hazel and Petunia (and Penelope, may she rest in peace) were from the batch six years ago, and Marigold and Betty are vintage 2015.

But the girls are getting up there in years. Only one of them is laying right now, the others are molting, and several of them undoubtedly have reached henopause.

So when Jen called me up the other day and asked if I wanted a chicken, I didn’t say no. I could use another egg-layer, after all, and I had room for one more in the coop.

And then Jen told me the story, and I had to say yes.


Jen’s beautiful barn

Bernice’s Story

Jen’s mother-in-law has a friend whose mother recently died. The mother loved chickens – at least the ceramic kind – and the daughter had the daunting task of disposing of her mother’s vast chicken collection, which she did via an estate sale. Once she finally got rid of the chickens and cleared out the house, the daughter returned for a final walk-through before putting the house on the market.

And that’s when a little red hen strolled into the yard.

Nobody knew where this little hen came from, but she was friendly and had no problem being picked up. She seemed happy and well-loved. She had to belong to someone.

The daughter canvassed the neighborhood, going from door-to-door in a several block radius from the house. But she couldn’t find anyone who kept chickens, much less who had any idea where this chicken belonged.

By now, the daughter was starting to think the hen was her mother reincarnated, coming back to haunt her for selling off the ceramic chicken collection. So she named the hen Bernice, after her mom.

The daughter set up a little pen for Bernice in the garage, and placed an ad on Craigslist. But, sadly, no one claimed Bernice (although the ad did get a few jokey responses).

Eventually, the daughter gave up trying to find Bernice’s rightful owner. She had to get the chicken out of the makeshift pen in the garage. And Bernice needed to be with her own kind.

That’s when Jen and her home for wayward animals came into the picture.

And so Bernice arrived to Jen’s. Jen assessed her to be young and healthy … and far too tame to fit in with Jen’s big barnyard flock. No, Bernice clearly needed to be a part of a backyard flock where she would be spoiled and cuddled and hand-fed meal worms.

Hmmm …

So that’s how I ended up with Bernice.

And she may or may not be somebody’s reincarnated mother.

Bernice coming home

I’m Counting Six Chickens Now!

Here they are, left to right: Mabel, Marigold, Petunia, Hazel, Betty, Bernice

counting my chickens