Snakes in the Henhouse

Favorite chores included feeding chickens and gathering eggs, until a possible sighting of snakes in the henhouse.

| September/October 2014

  • Linda feeding the chickens at her grandparents' farm.
    Photo courtesy Linda Allen
  • Linda feeding the chickens at her grandparents' farm.
    Photo courtesy Linda Allen
  • Linda posing for a photo while feeding chickens on her grandparents' farm.

Summers on my grandparents’ farm near Drummond, Oklahoma, were a childhood delight for this city girl. Those were the days before television consumed our time and attention. My days were filled with simple outside play: swinging high under the old elm tree in a swing fashioned from an old tractor tire; building sand villages and “baking” sand cookies in a sandbox also created from a recycled tire; and sliding down the cellar door — even more fun when sprinkling water on it increased the downhill speed. Walking down the country road that fronted my grandparents’ house became a daily treasure hunt to discover the mysteries of nature like flowers, bugs, rocks, leaves and animal prints.

Not all was play though. Grandma made sure I had chores to do. Many chores were more fun and play than work, and much more interesting than city-girl chores. I kept busy helping my grandmother in the garden and kitchen, I fed the tribe of cats that populated the farm, and I helped my granddad milk the cows.

My favorite chores were feeding the chickens and gathering eggs. Black-and-white photographs show my childhood glee in scattering chicken feed surrounded by a flock of contented hens busily pecking and clucking at my feet. Perhaps it was a sense of power or control that made this so attractive. I was queen of the farm. All animals shorter than me were at my command.

Even more fun was gathering eggs. Maybe the prospect of finding a treasure was what attracted my attention, even though I knew what was in each nest.

Grandma would send me out with my basket, cautioning me to be careful not to break the eggs. For a long time, I happily and casually gathered the eggs from their nesting boxes, nestling them carefully in the basket. I always took time to chat with my hen friends in the henhouse.

All was fun — until I heard the word “snakes.” One day, my grandmother nonchalantly said, “You should probably be careful about snakes in the henhouse and maybe in the nests.”

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