Injured chicken conquers all and finds a coop in a coupe

This is about a chicken coup. There is also a coop in this story. There's even a coupe. But "coup" is the right word because this is a story of conquest.

It all began when I started on my daily walk past the strewn parts of the 1936 Ford coupe my husband was restoring. At the end of the driveway, in the ditch, lay the body of a chicken - a Rhode Island Red hen. I started to walk by on the other side, and then was hit hard by my conscience. So I went back.

A staring eye blinked at me! She was alive.

Now I was in a struggle with myself. I hadn't liked chickens since I was a child. It had been my duty to gather eggs from about 200 chickens daily, some of whom were very aggressive in refusing to give them up.

But any creature in distress deserved all the love she could get. So I gingerly gathered up her limp body and went back to the carport, installing her in a cardboard box full of hay for a nest - a sort of minicoop.

I had nothing that would seem to be chicken feed, except some dried soup mix containing barley. So I poured some of that in a container, took a glass of water, and went back outside. The chicken lay as I had left her.

Putting the soup mix by her head, I tried to encourage her to eat. She wasn't interested. Then I dripped a little water on her beak, and she opened it. So I let drop after drop fall into her mouth until she sighed and shut her eyes. I felt relieved that I had helped, even a bit.

The next few days she lay unmoving, interested only in water.

However, by the fourth or fifth day, she began to move about, and one day we found her outside her box. She was dragging a wing and a foot, but was bright-eyed and hunting for something to eat. She still wasn't interested in soup mix, however.

The chicken tried - without success - to reach a cobweb in a corner above her, so I took a stick and gathered the web with its dangling spider. She gobbled up that spider.

Recruited for KP duty, my three sons entered into this new game with delight, and the chicken, now dubbed Henrietta, was plied with an abundance of fat black spiders. Even my daughters got into the action, albeit preferring the longer handle of the broom for delivering the spider meals.

About this time, Henrietta decided - to my husband's annoyance - that she liked to sleep in the shell of the Ford, and abandoned her box. "I'm not putting all my money and effort into a chicken coupe," he muttered.

However, in return for the accommodation, Henrietta began to give warning whenever anyone came up the driveway. We had a watchbird.

All the family admired the spunk of this bird, her unfailing cheerfulness in the face of disaster, and her bravery in struggling around in spite of her injuries. I even began to lose my dislike of chickens.

Finally the day came when her feathers began to sprout again, and she carried her wing in the proper place. One foot, however, remained curled under and swollen. It seemed that an examination of the foot was in order, so I got my husband to hold her while I looked. There, buried in her flesh, was a crushed metal band.

It had to be removed, so I got pliers and tinsnips and carefully cut away the metal. That amazing bird never struggled, uttering only one small whimper when I finally peeled it away. Both my husband and I were in awe of her bravery.

It was at that moment that I realized the cheerfulness, courage, friendliness, and gumption that we all had been admiring were her real being. How could I not have seen that before? I loved that bird.

There's not much else to this story, except the last day we saw Henrietta. A neighbor had come to admire my husband's work on the old Ford and noticed the chicken. "What're you doing with her?" he asked. "That's our chicken."

When my husband explained the situation, the neighbor was incredulous.

"That's impossible!" he said. "She's too old. All the others in her clutch died of old age long ago." Under the circumstances, that was funny, since there Henrietta stood, impossible or not, triumphant even over old age.

After promising to give her a place of her own, separate from their younger hens and the rooster, and to love her, our neighbor took her back. That's the last we saw of our watchbird, but I'll never forget Henrietta. I try to live up to her example.

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