BeakSpeak Book

The Little Black Hen

In a small, South Dakota chick yard, outside the little town of Elk Point, lived an Australorp cousin of Re-Say Renee by the name of Sashay. The falls and winters in South Dakota are especially cold, since the state is that far north.

Sashay was never warm enough in the wintertime, even while fluffing out her new feathers that grew out after molting season. Chickens molted, or shed their feathers for new ones, between mid-summer and early fall. Every year, then, there were oodles of old feathers piled up in Sashay’s coop. Late one fall, she came up with the idea of making a coat with them to wear on top of her new feathers for extra warmth in the winter. She jumped on her nesting box to get the other chickens’ attention.

“Hey, you all!” she proclaimed. “I’ve got a great idea! How about we make coats for extra warmth this winter? If you help me gather up all these molted feathers, I’ll figure out where to get the material.”

“Ha, ha, ha, ha,” their bodies doubled over at the waist, and their wings slapped their knees.

“I’m not gathering old feathers,” one said, still laughing.

“I’m not either,” added another.

“That’s what our new feathers are for,” scoffed a third.

Sashay was downhearted, but still determined. She went about her business of picking up each feather that looked undamaged and putting it in a pile next to the nesting boxes. After a couple of days, she had quite a pile.

Next, she went to her owner’s trash can to look for fabric scraps. She knew her owner was a quilter, and, though quilters are stingy with their scraps, she managed to find enough she could piece together for a coat. Afterward, Sashay visited the horse’s stall, hoping to find thin strands from the horse’s mane, She found ample. Finally, she searched the property for the honey locust plant and carefully broke a thorn off of it.

In the coop, every day, before and after laying her egg, Sashay would work tirelessly, while the wind blew colder. She pecked a tiny hole in the thorn, threaded a strand of horse’s mane in it, and stitched the fabric together.

“Ha, ha, ha,” the other chickens would mock her. What a fool you are, Sashay,” they would say.

Nothing they said would deter her, though. Before long, she was sewing molted feathers onto the fabric, one at a time. She even overlapped them for extra warmth.

Sashay finished her coat just as a bad cold spell hit. Temperature plummeted to single digits, and the wind blew a gale that night. She put on her coat of many feathers and stayed nice and toasty, though the other chickens begged her to let them wear it for a while.

Word spread far and wide, among all birds, about what Sashay had done, and she was praised for her ingenuity. So much so, that Dolly Partridge wrote a song about Sashay’s Coat of Many Feathers and sang it at the Grand Ole Osprey.

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