Henrietta Cluckenmeyer never got along with other chickens, even after she came to Oddsborough Farm. The hens were always off in their corner, clucking about this or that or what so-and-so did or didn’t do, and the roosters were always picking fights with each other. To Henny, just the idea of all of that clucking and crowing and squawking and screeching made her feathers ache. She was a chicken who wanted nothing more than to be alone in her nest with a cup of corn silk tea. The rest of the chickens found this very odd, and every day it seemed like they paid attention to quiet little Henny less and less. Mary Mu-Kau saw this happening and started to worry about the short-legged little Bantam hen.
“Henny, is everything all right?” Mary asked one day after lunch.
“I think so,” Henny replied very quietly, “Have I done something wrong? I’m sorry.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry about, Henny. Why would you think you did something wrong?”
“Oh, it always happens,” Henny muttered. Mary could tell that she was upset, but was a little uncomfortable talking about it. But Mary was a clever cow, and she knew that sometimes, all you had to do was ask questions.
“What always happens?”
“I cause problems,” Henny hung her beak low.
“It’s OK. Henny,” Mary said gently, and smiled her little cow smile. To her surprise, Henny looked up at her, almost trembling.
“Are you sure? I don’t want to cause any problems.”
“You’re not causing any problems, Henny.”
“OK, well… I do want to be friendly… I really do… but every time I try to talk, they all look so upset and confused that I feel like I’m bothering them.”
“They’re probably just surprised you spoke to them, Henny,” Mary replied.
“But, but… they’re all having a good time, and I come in and start squawking, and then they look all upset.”
“They’re not upset, Henny. Remember, all of the animals here at Oddsborough Farm were once like you and me. They probably want to be your friend, but they just don’t know how.”
“I don’t know if I know how to be a friend, either,” Henny pouted, which is awfully hard to do with a chicken’s beak.
“Well…” Mary thought for a moment, “let’s think about this. Do you like cracked corn?”
“Oh, yes,” Henny fluffed up her feathers happily, “very much.”
“And do you like a good scratch in the dirt?”
“Of course!” Henny nodded, “Who doesn’t like a good henscratch?”
“And how about a nice, soft nest and a good nap on a spring afternoon?”
“Oh my, yes. That sounds wonderful.”
“That’s what I thought,” Mary nodded, “Follow me.”
They had only gone a few steps before Henny started to panic.
“We’re headed toward the chicken coop!”
“Of course we are,” Mary said, and kept walking. Henny hurried to keep up.
“But, but… all the hens are in there!” Henny’s soft voice nearly disappeared when she got frightened.
“How else are we going to make friends?” Mary asked.
“But, but… they’ll all laugh at me. They’ll make fun of me!”
That stopped Henny cold in her tracks.
“What do you mean, Mary?”
“When I say ‘why,’ I mean ‘why,’ Henny,” Mary said with her gentle little cow smile, “Why do you think they’ll laugh at you? Have they laughed at you before?”
“Have they made fun of you before?”
“Why do you think they will?”
“Because everyone always does!”
That was the loudest Mary had ever heard Henny squawk. Truth be told, it was the loudest Henny had ever heard herself squawk. Now it was Mary’s turn to be stopped in her hoofprints.
“People have picked on me ever since I was a little chick… because I was small, because I was quiet, because I liked to be alone… I moved to three different coops, but it was never any better. I was so miserable, I couldn’t even lay an egg, and that’s why… why…”
“That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”
Mary stepped a little close to the little chicken and rubbed her muzzle up against Henny’s soft, fluffy feathers.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Mary said quietly, so quietly only Henny could hear, “If any of the chickens in this coop are mean to you… I’ll sit on them, one by one, and squash them into chicken mash!”
Henny wanted to give a squawk, but she was so surprised almost no noise came out!
“But, but… Mary!” she said in a terrified whisper, “Don’t do that! I’m sure it’s not their fault! It’s probably mine!”
“Henny, it’s not your fault,” Mary replied, “It’s not anyone’s fault here at Oddsborough that we’re different. It’s just how we are.”
“No more buts!” Mary said finally, “now, just stay here and have a nice scratch; I’ll be back in a minute.”
Henny decided it was indeed a good time for a scratch, and at least it took her mind off things. Suddenly, though, she became aware that there was a second pair of feet scratching in the ground, and she looked up into the bright, giddy eyes of a Rhode Island Red.
“HI THERE, HENNY!” the red said with a big, chickeny smile.
Poor Henny squawked and lost her balance, dropping her tailfeathers in the dust. She was immediately picked back up and dusted off by reddish-colored wings as the bigger hen kept on clucking.
“Sorry about that, Henny, people are always saying I say HI too loud but I really like to say HI loud because I like to meet people and say HI to them and I want to show them that I’m happy to meet them and I want them to be happy to meet me so I say HI and…”
“That’s enough, Crowena.”
Henny looked past the grinning red hen to see Mary’s smiling face.
“Henny, this is Crowena Pinfeather. I asked the other chickens inside what they thought of you, and they all felt really bad about you being left out.”
“Yeah!” Crowena butted in, “like, I was sent here from my old farm because my old farmer said I clucked and crowed too much, but I don’t think I cluck and crow too much, do you?”
“Well… yes?” Henny whispered.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Crowena cackled, “Henny, you’re the nicest little chick I’ve ever met, and even YOU tell me I need to tweak my beak! Maybe we could learn something from each other, huh?”
“You bet!” Crowena laughed again, “You can teach me how to be quiet, and I can teach you how to talk the paint right off the side of a barn!”
“Oh, my… I don’t know if I want to do that!”
“Of course you do, it’ll be fun! C’mon, let me introduce you to the gals. Tell me, do you like corn silk tea?”
And the big, boisterous Red brought the little white Bantam into the coop to meet all of the other chickens. As she watched them go, Mary smiled, but it wasn’t a little cow smile this time, it was a big, happy, Crowena Pinfeather chickeny smile.
“Something tells me those two will be great friends.”
And then, Mary went off to help with the hay-cutting, because there was always work, work of all kinds, to be done at Oddsborough Farm.