Chicken Scratch, a Farm Fable of Lem & Lee's Five Hens

Lem & Lee's five hens enjoy an afternoon snack
Blackie jumped down from the roost post and out the chute before daybreak.

“Doesn’t Blackie know it’s coold outside?” Goldie asked.

“Buooock,” Silver yawned.

Blondie turned her head. “Pleease cover your beeak, Silver.”

“Sooorry,” Silver replied. “What I’d give to munch on some paarsley.”

Blondie flew down upon the thick straw. “And what I’d give to swaaallow some woorms.”

“It’s been daays since Lem and Lee brought us down some greeens,” Silver said. “We all have coorn breath.”

Blondie strutted to the gain bin. “Speeak for yourself.” 

Brownie, Silver, and Goldie smiled to one another before they flew down for their morning drink.

Brownie sipped thoughtfully.

“Whaat’s on your mind, Brownie?” Goldie asked.

Before Brownie could answer, a beam of sunrise burst into the house, the first in days.

“Would you look at thaat?” Silver exclaimed.

Blondie flapped her wings in joy. “Maybee Lee will bring us some greeens today! Sunny days are her faavorite.”

“Let’s ask Blaaackie what she thinks,” Brownie suggested.

She led the way down the ramp where the four hens huddled in the cold. They turned to one another in bewilderment. Blackie, her feathers alight with daybreak, stamped her footprints in the snow.

“Excuuuse us, Blackie,” Brownie said. 

Chicken scratch in the hen's pen

Blackie did not reply. She lifted one foot, then another, this way, and that. Never had her sisters seen Blackie so serious about her chicken scratch.

“What’s Blackie doooing?” Silver whispered. “Her feet will freeeze.”

“Shhh,” said Goldie.

The second oldest of the hens, Brownie remembered her mother’s chicken scratch and understood Blackie’s behavior. But she didn’t understand the meaning of Blackie’s chicken scratch.

Blackie pressed a foot into the snow and lifted it with a smile as wide as a beak can be. “Fiiinished.”

“Whaaat’s finished?” asked Blondie.

Blackie placed the tips of her wings akimbo. “A message to Leee.” 

“Boock?” Silver asked.

“Bock!” said Goldie, who remembered their mother’s messages, Juicy Worms Here and Danger! But she didn’t understand Blackie’s message.

“I’ve almost forgootten how to read chicken scraatch,” Brownie confessed.

“Mee too,” Goldie said.

Silver and Blondie sighed. "Meee too,” 

The five sisters’ eyes met with the same dreadful thought. They shivered for a long while as the sun melted snow into puddles.

“Blaackie,” Brownie consoled, “please come out of the snoow before your toes freeeze.”

Blackie looked down to her message, Greens please, printed in the snow. She didn’t much care if her toes froze. “It was a foolish plaan,” she ceded. “How can Lee understaand my chicken scraatch if you don’t?”

Discouraged to their breastbone, the four hens followed their eldest sister up the ramp and into the henhouse. They moped all morning. They didn’t run out the chute when Lee opened the pen door and saw chicken prints in the snow. They didn’t answer her call.

And when Lee pushed open the yellow door to their house and said, “Good morning, Girls! Why aren’t you outside?” they didn’t have the heart to say.

But when Lee said, “Thanks for your chicken scratch,” and emptied a bag of greens upon the floor, they couldn’t believe their ears and eyes.

And above all surprising things, before she closed the door, Lee said, “Enjoy your snacky poo!”

“Snaaacky poo?” the five hens echoed. What a silly word for greens, they thought, and ate every bit.