The essence of true power is the ability to wield it without uttering a squawk. Jenny Linsky, our second Barred Rock hen, pretty much has all of us — human and chicken alike — wrapped around her wing feathers. Being a grande dame (along with Sally) she asserts herself quietly, but make no mistake: Jenny does not take any BS. None. So don’t try it. I love that she is a combination of assertiveness and sweetness. She’s kind of my role model.
Jenny is named for a shy little black cat who likes red scarves, from a wonderful series of children’s books by Esther Averill. She is still little and mostly black, and would probably wear a red scarf if given the opportunity, but now that she is grown she is anything but shy. As a chick she was the cuddliest; she would run to my hands when I put them in the brooder and ask to be scooped up. Once scooped, she would nestle into my lap and fall asleep as I rubbed her
teeny, downy head, or would climb up my sleeve onto my shoulder and tuck herself under my hair, as if it were a Mama Hen’s wing. When I would bundle the gang into a cardboard box to bring them out to the yard to play, she would insist on riding on my shoulder like a little queen. Of course I had to indulge Her Majesty.
As everyone grew and the dominance hierarchy sorted itself out, it became clear that Jenny was to be our top hen (although if you ask Sally, she’ll tell you that that’s not the case). Meanwhile, our alumnus rooster Chancellor became seriously smitten with her; the two bonded closely at about eight weeks old and kept that bond until he graduated from our property back in March. (And no, “graduate” is not a euphemism — he now lives on another farm.) They foraged together, relaxed together, and snoozed together.
Even when they hit maturity and Chancellor began to assert his roosterly right to herd the hens around, he didn’t dare herd Jenny. I watched him try, once. They were standing on top of our coop, and Chancellor had just succeeded in getting everyone else to fly up to the rafters by doing his stomping dance at them. He turned to Jenny and stomped. She raised her head and neck feathers, uttered a pteranodon-like screech, and jumped at him with her claws bared. “Sorry, ma’am! OK, ma’am! I’m going to hide over here now, ma’am!” said Chancellor sheepishly as he retreated to the opposite end of the coop. From that point on, Jenny was exempt from rooster herding and allowed to come and go as Her Majesty pleased.
It also soon became clear that raised head and neck feathers were Jenny’s Godfather-esque way of letting everyone know when She Is Displeased. She generally does not need to escalate to pteranodon noises, though when necessary she is an expert practitioner of the art of Haranguing. If someone is taking too long to lay her egg in the favorite nest box, we can hear it from the house. If the human help has put everyone back in the coop for the night sooner than she would like, we can hear it from the house. I think she may have been the inspiration for the saxophone part in this adorable song. Generally, however, it doesn’t reach that level of vitriol. It doesn’t need to.
Life for Jenny, however, is not all kicking tail fluff and taking names. She is a self-possessed, busy little hen who catches bugs like a boss, thoroughly enjoys her hour-long dust bath, and loves to be curious. Knowing that I was writing her profile today, she hopped onto my lap to check out my phone as I typed, and still being a cuddle bug insisted on some head scratches before she returned to scarfing tiny grasshoppers. She sweeps majestically around the yard, her retinue keeping a respectful distance. When I grow up, I want to be Jenny Linsky.