I collect things. It’s a habit that my husband finds less and less amusing the longer we are married.

But my humble collections serve to stimulate the kids artistically and pique their interest in simple things…vintage canning jars, hand-thrown pottery, antique books, natural fabrics, and now, hens. These items benefit our family and home…each object beautiful and utilitarian in a variety of ways.
The hens have offered us more than just a quick study in chicken psychology. We also get fresh eggs each day, all unique and beautifully hued. I read books on chickens for two years before finally selecting a mixed bag of breeds. But one hen type, the one I most desired, was regrettably unattainable–the Blue Copper French Maran–birds the exact color of river rocks. Deep, slate gray with mushroom undertones, flecks of copper, and gorgeous amber eyes to boot.
Blue Copper French Marans are to chickens what Weimeraners (also gray) are to dogs. High-brow functionally aesthetic animals. Problem is, (as with Weimeraners) breeders turn their noses up to folks who do not plan to show the animals, rather keeping them as pets. But there is a reason for such uniform snobbery–breeders can charge more for highly-ribboned bloodlines.
After an intense six-month search, I found a Blue Copper French Maran breeder in Southern Virginia who would sell me three young hens to add to my flock. The breeder only agreed to sell me the girls because they were far too gray and therefore not show worthy, which was fine by me.
I arrived at the historic farm, a lovely restored federal style brick home straight south of Bowling Green, smiling as I spotted a "Don’t Tread on Me" flag below Old Glory at the entrance of the drive. Debbie, the owner, was warm and easy-going, introducing me to the various chicken families on the compound and her theories on how best to integrate new birds to an established flock.
Greta, the youngest of my new blue hens, has proven to be the most highly evolved bird of the bunch. She’s the smallest by two pounds or more, delegating her to the very bottom of the pecking order. But today, Greta proved that brains trump brawn even in the avian community. She is quite the little Houdini / freedom fighter. I had her confined to a small fenced-in area inside the chicken yard after being absolutely tormented by the other birds. But Greta planned to evade her small surrounds and in turn, imprison her tormentors…
Despite clipped wings, Greta channeled her inner dinosaur and jumped the fence to greater chicken-yard freedom. This is when things got interesting. The other birds, seeing the abundant chicken food pellets inside Greta’s confined area, all jumped in, trading abundant worms, foliage, and other forageable goodies for an easy meal, a free lunch.
Even as a juvenile, Greta understands that freedom offers choices and opportunities that confinement and dependence do not. Because a free lunch is a good idea until it’s gone and you’re stuck waiting for the next meal from your master.
Stuck indeed. Their bellies were full, yet the hapless confined birds sadly looked on as Greta happily played in the coop, wandered around the yard, scratched for juicy bugs, took a dust bath, and plucked delicious Ginko leaves from a nearby tree.
A great lesson from a small but mighty hen. A free lunch doesn’t equal freedom.
Greta making a run for it (below)
Sad hens looking for a way out of a poor decision…
**A little bit of trivia: Harry Houdini was Hungarian, born Erik Weisz.
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