Ufdah, she is such a hussy!  She has been shamelessly hanging around the warehouse for the past couple weeks.  The efforts to keep her away have been futile.  She was repeatedly admonished that she had no business there, but she totally ignored the rebuke and waited patiently for men to enter the back door.  She coyly follows them in and cozies up to them!  For shame.  I would have more to say about this beautiful hussy, but she is, after all, a chicken. 

All the above information is true, she was told to stay away.  Doors were closed to keep her out of the building.  Her silent comment appeared to be, “Other birds fly in, I’m coming in too!”  she merely waits for an unsuspecting customer to open the door and silently sashays in after him.  There was a bit of a contest to name her, with only two entries: Bernadette and Tyson.  While Tyson received a lot of laughs, she was named Bernadette by a strong majority vote. 

One day a pair of men walked into the warehouse with Bernadette close on their heels.  One man reached down to pet her.  His friend declared to the management, “He’s a chicken whisperer!”

She started laying an egg a day on the workbench.  The first egg rolled off and made a mess on the floor.  The janitorial service took exception to having to clean up broken chicken eggs.  As you well know, broken eggs make a gooey mess. Trying to avoid conflict, the management set up a cardboard box in a quiet area along the wall and ushered Bernadette into the box.  She promptly made herself comfortable. She sat there for about an hour, presumably resting.  It was a warm day and the warehouse door was open. So after her little rest, she rose and exited the building.  Upon further investigation it was discovered she left an egg. 

Bernadette has returned to the warehouse every day since.  She enters through the back door and proceeds directly to her box, lays her egg, and promptly leaves.  I recently received a call that Bernadette was in the building and was invited to meet her.  I drove to the business and was invited into the back warehouse to visit the new resident in her box.  I always thought chickens were skittish and did not like strangers, but the chicken just looked at me.  As I started to pet her (I had never petted a chicken before) she rose and left her box to take advantage of the attention.  There was no egg.  I spoke to her briefly but she had no response, although she clearly enjoyed the petting.  As soon as I stopped caressing the soft black and white feathers, she stepped back into her box.  I was informed that an egg was indeed laid that day, I just did not have time to wait for it to happen.  At last count the feathered warehouse mascot has laid at least a dozen eggs. 

A recent observer reported the faithful chicken arrived at the warehouse Sunday morning at 10:40 a.m. and waited for someone to open the door.  When no one arrived, she left despondently.  She did not leave an egg for her friends.  

My daughter and her family have started raising chickens.  While visiting them yesterday, I told them about Bernadette and showed them her picture.  My son-in-law informed me that Bernadette is a Barred Rock chicken.  He even corrected my spelling.  I was then taken to the building where their new chicks are just starting to grow feathers.  I petted one but didn’t get to hold it, it was way too nervous.  The entire family is excited about raising chickens.  I think it looks like a lot of work.  However, if these young chicks grow up to be like Bernadette, it will be worth it. 

I learned that chickens have different personalities.  While some are skittish, some are warm and friendly, and others are just plain grouchy.  I read in a novel that the crabby ones are the first to make it to the dinner table, unless they are amazing egg layers.  It takes 24 to 26 hours for a chicken to produce an egg.  It takes Bernadette about an hour to get comfortable and lay her egg in the warehouse.  White leghorns lay the most eggs statistically, averaging about 300 eggs a year.  As chickens grow older their egg production decreases by about 20% annually.

I also learned that my husband knows more about chickens than I would have expected.  The whole Bernadette story revealed to me that he grew up with chickens.  Duh, that would explain the dilapidated chicken coop on his parents’ farm. Although my grandmother worked at Fergus Falls hatchery when I was little, and on a rare occasion she took us to see chicks, I guess I never thought much about chickens.  That has all changed now that I have a new friend who is a chicken.  I look forward to regular reports on Bernadette and her eggs.  Does anyone else claim to be friends with a chicken?


Sue Wilken is a lifelong resident of Fergus Falls. Her column appears in the weekend edition.

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