Rural Life

Henrietta Is Dead

Saying goodbye to my aggressive, curious, sociable, baffling chicken.


A few months ago, I wrote about Henrietta, my curious, aggressive, sociable hen. When I drove the tractor to the road in front of the house today, I found her dead body. I’ve had a farm long enough to know that you don’t cry for a chicken, but Henrietta was an unusual hen. She terrorized my border collie Rose and loved to sit for hours on the backs of my steer Elvis, the donkeys, and sometimes even the sheep. She cleaned their coats of dirt, bugs, and ticks.

She was brazen for a hen, going where she pleased, crisscrossing the road, hopping up on posts and staring you in the eyes. This roaming was Henrietta’s undoing. We planted grass seed, which Henrietta loved to eat, by the barns across the street. Many people come speeding down this country road, and she was clearly hit by a car, right by the fence in front of the house. The other chickens are warier and rarely go in the road.

Annie, my farm goddess, will be sad, as she had tended to Henrietta when she was a chick and kept her in the milkhouse for six months in protective custody until I set her free. Henrietta loved donuts, corn kernels, and cat food. She was a hen of distinction. I will miss her. I’m angry at the heedless drivers who come barreling by my farm at high speeds, but then again, she had no business being in the road. Her father, Winston the rooster, is crowing a lot, perhaps calling to her. He is also eating her corn.  

I put her in a bag and took her out to the woods and left her body there for the animals to eat. I just said, “Thanks, Henrietta, for all the eggs.”