Those Days at "The Happy Hen House"
by guest blogger, Elmer Prather
One word that many of our puzzlers would use to describe our puzzles is "nostalgia". Our images are significantly nostalgic and "The Happy Hen House" is no different. Reading Mr. Prather's write up about the memories that this puzzle stirred up for him is one of the reasons we love doing what we do. We hope you enjoy his recounting of the good ol' days.
This is the 54th Cobble Hill puzzle I have had the pleasure of putting together. It is titled The Happy Hen House by Greg & Company. I really like his puzzles; I have put 8 other puzzles of his together. Those other puzzles are Blue Truck Farm, Deerfield, Summer Afternoon on the Farm, Cozy Fireplace, Welcome to the Lake House, Hooked on Fishing, Sheep Field and Summer Truck.
I must have a connection with a puzzle before I spend the time putting it together. My connection to this puzzle is the chickens. When I was 12 years old my mother put me in charge of our 25 or so chickens. They were free range chickens with several nests for the hens to lay their eggs. When one of the hens started brooding, I would gather some of the fresh eggs from other nests and take a number 2 lead pencil and mark the eggs until they were almost black. I did this because when the brooding hen would leave her nest for food, water and to use the bathroom, some of the other hens would lay their eggs in the brooding hen’s nest. Marking the eggs with the pencil allowed me to know which eggs she was sitting on and which ones were freshly laid. I would usually put about 12 eggs under the brooding hen. It takes 21 days for the eggs to hatch.
Since our chickens were free range, they were in jeopardy of hawks swooping down and grabbing one of them. To prevent this from happening, we placed a tall pole into the ground, mounted a cross arm to it and hung 12 gourds from the cross arm. The gourds had holes cut into them for small birds to fly in and out. These gourds became nests for Martins. Martins are a small breed of bird also in jeopardy of hawks attacking them. When a hawk would fly by near the chickens and the Martins nests, the Martins would collectively fly out of their nests and do what is called “mobbing”. This is when Martins collectively attack the hawk and run it off. By doing this we created a natural defense against the hawks. In the puzzle, I did not see any protection for the free-range chickens except for the chicken house itself.
The chickens displayed in the puzzle were different breeds of chickens and roosters. We had mostly Game chickens and roosters. We also had a few Bantams, Domineckers and a few White Leghorns.
The puzzle has a sign on the chicken coop door advising customers they sold fresh eggs. The eggs our family did not need were put into egg cartons and I would put them in the basket on my bicycle and take them to a local grocery store in town, which was about a mile away. The grocery store owner would give me all the egg cartons I needed and pay me 50 cents for each dozen I brought him.
In the puzzle, there were horses and cows in the pasture behind the hen house. There were two large barns for the farmer to store hay and for the animals to have a place to go to get out of the weather.
This puzzle brought back many fond memories of my youth and my tenure as being the sibling who had the sole responsibility of taking care of our small flock of chickens. Those were the days.