Boy, I say boy, you’re about to exceed the limits of my medication. ― Foghorn Leghorn
I often encounter bizarre questions at book signings. The more signings I do, the more prevalent this phenomenon becomes. The strangest queries usually have nothing to do with my writing.
Instead, the questions are about an attendee’s pet chickens. I guess they ask me because they’ve read my first two books set in the fledgling “poetry industry” of yesteryear. (That’s “poultry industry” for those who haven’t read those books.) They know I have “hands-on” experience with chickens. Well, maybe.
At a recent signing a seriously concerned amateur chicken farmer asked me why his prized pullet was depressed. He then launched into a lengthy tale of her change in behavior and lifestyle. Henrietta, he maintained, had always been a very jovial chick. He grimaced with an expression on his face closely akin to sorrow, as he told me the story.
Henrietta, it seems, had once been an outgoing chick who ruled the roost. Daily she strutted her stuff in the sun, cackled loudest of all the hens after she laid an egg, and liked nothing better than to race and chase June bugs. But of late, she had become a recluse and had taken up retreat in her nest. When he attempted to remove her from that cozy abode, she had pecked and flogged the concerned owner. “It’s ironic,” he said. “It’s almost as though she likes being depressed.”
Then the questioner got a thousand-yard stare on his face, rubbed his chin, and pondered the words he’d just uttered. It was obviously a “eureka” moment, and his shocked expression was followed immediately with his conclusion.
“It’s that other hen!” he belted out. “It all started when I added HER to the flock. She’s a bully! That other hen is bullying Henrietta. She’s afraid to come out. That’s why she stays in her nest, won’t eat, and has stopped laying eggs.”
I tried to explain to the questioner that in a hen’s life, they periodically go through a period called “molting.” They lose weight and feathers, are lifeless, and don’t act normal.