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How The Hen House Turns: Peeper’s Grasshopper

on April 11, 2015 - 7:13am
How the Hen House Turns
Peeper’s Grasshopper
By CAROLYN (CARY) NEEPER Ph.D.

Early in Peeky’s setting I had forgotten to candle her adoptive eggs and throw out the infertile ones. Therefore, her only chick was Peeper, who soon grew into a magnificent game cock with razor-sharp spurs on his legs and a tail that soared with iridescent flecks of gold high above his blood-red comb.

The county was hopping with grasshoppers the year Peeper hatched, and, in order to encourage them, we left the grass high around the chicken pen. Every once in a while one hopper would take off in the wrong direction and provide chilling entertainment for us by landing tragically too close to the chickens and turkey.

Inevitably, one day a large grasshopper landed directly in front of baby Peeper’s tiny splayed feet. He grabbed the hopper in his sharp little beak and held on fast, running this way and that with the prize, frantic because he didn’t know what to do next. The hopper was too big to swallow.

When Peeky saw that her only son had too huge a tiger by the tail, she grew decisive and firm, as all good mothers do when their offspring is threatened by outrageous ambition. With a deft blow of her beak, she bonked Peeper on the head.

He wouldn’t turn loose of his prize. Fearful that his devoted mother had suddenly turned greedy, he ran for it, his beak clamped shut on the delicious grasshopper, until—whomp!

Peeky’s beak came down once more on her son’s head.

He reeled a little, but held on as he began running in circles. I winced as Peeky’s bill crashed down again, square on top of the black chick’s fragile noggin. He sat down in a daze, and the grasshopper fell from his grasp and made for high grass.

With a well-aimed stroke of her beak, Peeky caught the fleeing insect and severed it in two. Then she warned Peeper off with a commanding squawk, and proceeded to make minced grasshopper. Satisfied at last, and with no thought of indulging herself, she stepped back and called her son to a safer dinner.

A real mother hen! Peeky never ate until Peeper was satisfied. Never. She always called him to the best morsel first. She continuously watched his diet for possible chokers and quickly broke them up before his voracious appetite endangered him. When he grew up, Peeper carried on the tradition--catching grasshoppers and offering them to his hens.


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