Peaceful Spring for Chicken Lady
Written By: Jack Kelly of the Manhattan World
This reporter has covered numerous breaking stories that have taken place on the Shawhan farm. I am so used to getting a juicy beat on the place, I have often times considered it a second home of sorts. Now, however, it has been months since getting a late night or early morning phone call from the residence, that I decided to drive out there one day and see if everything was going alright.
After driving down the one lane road and passing numerous Amish buggies, I approached the white farm house and fenced in property with caution. As I pull up short at the beginning of the driveway, my path is blocked by a set of black gates sung shut to keep unwanted guests out and a little redheaded boy in. The reporter in me is also assuming the structure is there to prevent Amish poultry scabs off the property since this place is legendary for its yearly egg laying strike.
Soon I hear chain on metal and the Chicken Lady herself is opening the fence for me so I can drive through. Upon parking my vehicle, I am greeted by Ms. Shawhan at the passenger side window.
"What are you doing here?"
"Well, I wanted to check in on you...I haven't heard anything out of your camp in quite some time."
Even from behind the sunglasses I catch a quizzical look.
"You say it like its a bad thing."
I can't answer as I step out of the car. My job depends on good stories and in years past this place has always offered plenty of fodder.
"Can I offer you a beverage?" She asks dryly and I am suddenly reminded that the Chicken Lady doesn't like me very well.
"Do you have any of that tea?" I ask and can taste the notorious Shawhan ice tea/lemonade mix already exploding across my taste buds.
"Sure. One moment."
I take the few minutes to look around at my surroundings. It's quiet except for a few distant clucks and a constant whirring noise from across the yard by the tree line. There I see little Carl riding a battery powered John Deere tractor completely oblivious to my arrival. He is leaning almost off the tractor on the right hand side and studying the spinning wheels. Then from behind me I hear a noise and jump clean out of my Doc Martins.
I see for the first time Baby Abigail gaze up at me from her stroller, blue eyes wide. As her mother comes from the house with two glasses of tea, she squeals loudly again. I fail to mention to Ms. Shawhan that her child sounds a lot like the veliciraptor from Jurassic World. Cute baby though.
"So you're paying a courtesy call?"
I sigh and lavish the few seconds I have in my tea. Might as well cut to the chase. "I was wondering if your chickens are going on strike this year. I mean, they always do."
To my amazement, she smiles. "HA! That's funny. Actually, no. They aren't. Everyone is very happy this year. I know it's a first."
"Hmm." My heart sinks. Goodbye Caribbean vacation this year. This reporter won't be getting his annual bonus.
"Sorry to disappoint you. We didn't get any chicks this year-"
Tea sprays all over my Doc Martins.
"Seriously!? Are you for real?"
"I'm sorry." I murmur as I pat my dripping chin with a pressed hankie. I clear my voice. "I'm sorry. I wasn't aware. I mean...you always get new chicks." And then your adult birds are always p.o.ed, I add silently.
"Yeah, well we're allowed to take the year off." She retorts. "I was sad about it at first, but now I'm glad we did. With Abigail only a baby right now it's one less thing to do in a day's time. Plus the girls are really happy. I don't know if it's the mild weather or more space in the coop, but we get 20 or more eggs a day now. We've never had a spell like this before."
"How many chickens do you have now?" I ask, whipping out my pen and paper.
"This is going on the record?" She asks.
Now it's my turn to give her a look.
She sighs, "Fine. 31 hens and 1 rooster. 32 in all. Over the next year we'll have to cull out the older biddies and next year get a good number of new chicks. That's the plan anyway. But yeah, no strikes. Not a single rumor either."
The ink isn't even dry on the number 31 when I realize that is all I'll get story-wise out of the Shawhan farm on this visit.
As the baby begins to fuss and Carl cries out for help as he spins and spins the wheels of this tractor and doesn't go anywhere, Ms. Shawhan sets down her empty glass and sighs. "You'll have to excuse me."
"Of course. Thanks for your time...and the tea."
"Sorry you didn't get a good story." She calls over her shoulder on her way to address the first issue.
"I'll see myself out!" I call.
Driving away I realize how much I'll miss the week in the sun and sand, but I am happy peace seems to reign for the Chicken Lady and her birds. Her days are filled with enough drama and mishaps and fussy young ones...besides...there is always next year!