“Neville?” squawked Neville. “What kind of name for a chicken is Neville?” She was furious. The other rescue chickens had names like Hilda, Muriel, Eunice or Donna. One had been called Nugget, fair enough, but her head was a funny shape so it probably made sense. Her sister had been called KF Chicken by some arty type with a very large wife and a weird sense of humour.
Neville was happy to be away from the farm, where she had never seen daylight and had been bundled up with hundreds of other chickens. Now they were all heading off to new homes and had gardens to scratch around in. Their success was no longer defined by the number of eggs they laid in a day. They were going to be free, sit in sunshine and pop out an egg every once in a while for the family to eat.
Neville also seemed to have an attitude problem. “I’m not laying any more eggs until he,” she said, pointing a quivering wing at a little boy, “calls me something nice.” To prove her point, she sat with her wings pressed against her bottom.
“There’s nothing coming out of here for you, my boy,” she said before strutting off to the far corner of her new home.
The little boy peered at Neville through the mesh of the chicken coup. Yes, there were other hens in there but this one was special. It was his chicken and he loved her.
The other hens were brilliantly happy. They had the sun on their wings and space to roam. They nodded their heads as they strutted around the yard. There was good food: corn and wheat; chopped up lettuce, fresh toast and plenty of grit. Their feathers were growing back and they were all starting to glow with good health. Their eggs were being collected every day by the children and eaten by the family. Only Neville was clucking and complaining. She refused to lay anything. The little boy visited her every day and stroked her feathers.
“I love you, Neville,” he would say. “You are beautiful.” Neville did not care about that. She continued, day after day, to sit on her wings to stop any eggs falling out.
Then she started to get tummy ache. It growled, rumbled and felt massive. The next day, her cheeks began to swell into round bubbles. Still she sat on her wings. “Still nothing coming out of here for you, boy,” she said. The little boy looked tearful.
“Neville, please lay me an egg for my breakfast. I love you, Neville. You’re beautiful,” he told her. He gave her green lettuce and the piece of toast he saved from breakfast. There was still some jam in one corner. She ate it from the little boy’s hand but oh, her tummy hurt, her bottom hurt and so did her cheeks. Still she sat on her wings.
The next day, the little boy brought her more green lettuce and more toast with two blobs of jam this time. “Neville, please lay me an egg for my breakfast. I love you, Neville. You’re beautiful,” he told her.
He brought her fine grit and yellow corn. Neville ate it all. But still, she would not lay eggs. “Still nothing coming out of here for you, boy,” she said.
The next day, Neville’s tummy hurt even more. Her bottom hurt even more and sitting down was getting to be quite an issue. Her swollen cheeks hurt. Now her eyes were starting to grow bigger. She thought they were going to pop right out of her head.
The next day, the little boy brought more green lettuce and more toast with three blobs of jam. It was the little boy’s favourite jam. He gave her more fine grit and more yellow corn. She ate the lot but said: “Still nothing coming out of here for you, boy.”
“Neville, please lay me an egg for my breakfast. I love you, Neville. You’re beautiful,” he told her.
Neville felt very unwell. Her tummy hurt. Her bottom hurt. Her swollen cheeks hurt and her eyes were about to burst from their sockets. Her wings hurt from being sat on for so many days. She was so unhappy.
The little boy visited her the next day with more green lettuce, toast with four blobs of jam. He gave her more fine grit and more yellow corn.
“I love you, Neville. You’re beautiful,” he told her.
“Awwwk, my tummy hurts,” she squawked. “My bottom hurts, my eyes hurt; my wings hurt.” She had grown so round and fat she looked like a feathery football with ping pong ball eyes that stood out of her head. The big people came to look at her and wandered back into the house muttering stuff like, “Old boiler,” and “egg bound.”
She looked at the little boy. He loved her and was kind to her. He did not fuss or feed the other chickens the way he fussed and fed her. Somehow she was special to him.
She quite liked the little boy. She liked her new home. She liked the sun on her wings and the open space of the yard. She remembered the dusty, dirty and crowded barn she had lived in with the other hens and how they never saw daylight. She liked the green lettuce and the toast with its blobs of jam. She liked the fine grit and yellow corn. This was a nice home for a chicken. Neville was a nice name for a chicken. Oh, but her tummy hurt, her bottom hurt. So did her eyes, cheeks and wings. She ran to a fence and hid under a bush. She cried and clucked. She had been such a bird brained chicken. She squawked and shuffled. The little boy watched, feeling quite afraid. Then something remarkable happened.
Neville laid an egg. The tummy ache started to go.
The little boy was so excited. “Neville has made me an egg for my breakfast!” shouted the little boy. He was delighted.
Neville laid another egg. Her cheeks no longer hurt.
“Neville has made me an egg for my lunch!” shouted the little boy. He was ecstatically happy.
Neville laid another egg. Her eyes no longer hurt.
“Neville has made me an egg for my dinner!” shouted the little boy. He was bursting with joy.
Neville laid another egg. Now nothing hurt and she felt free.
“Neville has made me an egg for my supper!” shouted the little boy. “Neville, you are the best chicken in the entire world and I love you.”
Neville was also the happiest chicken in the entire world. The sun was warm and the grass was green. The yard was clean. She was free and life was good. She flew onto the roof and felt the wind turning her feathers from brown to gold. Neville threw back her beautiful head and shouted to the world: “My name is Neville and I’m beautiful. I made an egg for breakfast. I made an egg for lunch. I made an egg for dinner. I made an egg for supper.”
The little boy loved eggs but nowhere near as much as he loved Neville.