The Replacement Chickens
category: Jims Guatemala

chicken_greySM.jpgThe chickens continue to occupy our attention, as much for the problems as for the joys. A few weeks ago, we finally got some laying hens. We’d been chickenless ever since we ate our roosters, so it was nice to get back to having feathery friends around the yard. Things went well for the frist few days: Brian’s kids named our birds, we kept them tied to the house for a while, and they even gave us a few eggs. We got really attached to Ellie, the larger of the two, because she is very docile and friendly and will let you pet her.

After a week went by, it was time to untie them and let them come back home on their own. Chickens aren’t terribly smart, but can remember their own home after a week of training. When the sun starts to set, they want to find a safe place to roost, and hurry back to their coop. Supposedly.

Unless you made the mistake of buying your chicken from your neighbor, and the chicken is old enough to remember where it used to live. Henley came from a friend of ours that lives about a mile away up the valley, so she had no idea how to get back and instead made a happy new home under our house. But we’d bought Ellie from Manuel’s wife, who lives only a hundred yards away. She fell back in with her old chicken buddies, and started spending the night in Manuel’s coop once again.

“Hey, there you are!” Manuel said as he dropped by our house one afternoon. “Did you know your chicken came back to my house? Funny thing!” We weren’t amused; he continued undaunted. “Say, it probably won’t every return to your house. It’s too old! It know’s it’s place. How about I tell my wife to kill it and cook it up for a stew, so we can all celebrate your friends being here!”

This annoyed Emily further. “Who does he think he is, offering to give us our own chicken as a gift?” she said after he left. “And KILL ELLIE?! We love her!” Not to mention, it’s pure stupidity to kill a chicken that is already laying eggs. Emily frowned. “You better go over and work this out with Lina, and save Ellie’s life.”

I went over to Manuel’s house to talk to Lina about it. “Si, hombre!” she said. “She came back! Maybe she is too old to forget her home?” She looked happy to have a laying hen back, as I’d already told her that Ellie gave us two eggs. Obviously, Manuel hadn’t mentioned his dumb dinner plans to her.

“What are we going to do about this?” I asked. She stopped smiling, realizing that I wasn’t going to give her a 75q chicken for free. I am getting better at the indirect communication thing; I want my cash back if I can’t have the chicken.

Then she brightened. “I have some chicks! You can have two of them when they’re big enough they don’t need their mommy any more,” she said. She smiled, having successfully avoided giving me any money. Maybe I am not so good at indirect communication after all.


I went away feeling only partially victorious. I lost Ellie and 75q, but at least I got a loose promise to give me some really young chickens next month. And we still had the problem of Henley. If a chicken is alone, it might get too cold at night, or too lonely and stop coming home. We needed a Replacement Chicken, and we needed it fast.

“We could call Maribel GerĂ³nimo Juan,” Emily decided when I told her the story. “She sold us Henley, she’s really honest, and lives WAAAY over there.” She waved towards the far end of the valley. So, that’s what we did.

“Come right over,” Maribel said. When we got to her house, we made the obligatory small talk, then her mom made a funny, high-pitched buzzing noise with her lips. Chicken call.


In seconds, bunches of pretty hens popped out of the woodwork, scuttling around to get some of the corn she was spreading. “Which do you want?” she asked amidst the squawking. Now you should know, thay have some of the prettiest hens in town. I LOVE their grey one, and I remark upon it every time we walk through their part of the valley. cinco.jpg But they weren’t interested in selling that one; I guess they like it too. Her mom’s hand darted out like lightning, snatching a squawking and surprised hen, then holding it up for us to see. We spent about 15 minutes chatting and holding various chickens and haggling, and went away with one that is nearly laying age for another 75q. She’s friendly, probably young enough not to remember her old home, and FOR SURE not able to find her way home if it’s all the way down the valley. And she’s pretty docile too, but not so much as our lost friend Ellie. Now all she needs is a name. Help, Connor & Caitlyn?

Posted by: jfanjoy