At first, “Florence” seemed good. It’s a sweet, feminine name, a bit old-fashioned. But then the hurricane hit.
“Drusilla” was a possibility. But it has a touch of darkness – a name for a character in an old Addams Family episode, or in a movie about a giant, evil stink bug.
What about “Fredericka”? It has a nice ring and it’s unusual, too. But it has a lot of syllables to deal with.
I need to come with something quick, though. I have a new batch of egg-layer chickens and they need a name.
In the past, I’ve always called my chickens “Julia”. But at this point I’ve had hundreds of Julias. I’m thinking it might be time for a change, time to come up with a new name for the 60 chicks I’ve just moved into the nursery coop.
Naming chickens goes back years to my first flock, 25 Rhode Island Reds. They were young hens just about ready to begin their careers dutifully dropping little brown containers of protein four or five times a week, providing me with a “egg money” to deposit in the bank every Monday morning.
My wife insisted that I give them names. Even though they all looked pretty much alike, she said they needed names to show respect for their individual personalities. To me, they all looked alike, they all acted alike – flighty, clucky and sometimes contrary. But to keep the peace I agreed to name them.
There was no way I could come up with 25 different IDs and then remember who was who, so I just named them all “Julia”. They reminded me of a human Julia I once knew – an independent, sometimes fiery redhead — so it was a name I wouldn’t forget.
Over the years I’ve written several columns about the Julias because, despite their similarities, I’ve found that they do in fact have distinctive traits, and they often remind me of people I know and the predicaments they get into. I’ve called them “Julia No. 3” or “Julia No. 17” and so on to keep the cast of characters straight.
Still, the birds aren’t always satisfied with those limited distinctions, and frequently let me know. So at one point I relented. When I got a few Barred Rocks, a New England variety I thought might do well in our unpredictable winters, I called them all “Roxie”.
The Rocks were a standoffish lot, though, and didn’t seem to do any better in the cold. They never learned to talk to me like the Reds do, either. So when they died off I went back to replenishing the flock with new Julias.
My newest chicks are just a couple of weeks old now, but they too are showing signs they’ll have tales to tell. They “peep-peep-peep” at me whenever I show up with more feed and water.
I’m not sure what variety they are, though. I bought them from a friend who bought them at a farm supply store “clearance sale” for $1 apiece – a bargain. He decided he didn’t want them after all, and offered them to me for the price he paid.
The store had lost track of what varieties the chicks were, and since they were all identical little balls of yellow fuzz it was impossible to discern their ancestry. And it’s not certain that they’re all going to produce eggs, either. Forty of them were known to be hens-in-the-making, but the other 20 were “straight run” – a mix of males and females. I probably have some young roosters on my hands.
They’re just now starting to feather out, and most are looking like Rhode Island Reds. But a few look like they’ll have the black and grey striping of Barred Rocks, and a scattering are turning a dark brown.
And a handful are growing faster than the others, and standing head and shoulders taller than their coop-mates. They’re likely to be roosters.
So my naming problem is more complicated than usual. A single feminine name probably isn’t going to suffice. I’m going to have to come up with boy names as well.
My last rooster was named “Mr. Lola” because his gender identity wasn’t known until he was almost fully grown. (For a full explanation, look up the lyrics of “Lola” by the Kinks, who had a big hit with the tune back in 1970.) “Lola” seemed perfectly appropriate.
“Lola”? Now there’s a possibility. It’s short, sweet and has a lady-like ring. Maybe that’s a good name for my new birds – at least the ones who turn out to be hens.
But would choosing that name dishonor the memory of Mr. Lola? By all measures he was the best rooster I’ve ever had. He was handsome, tall and proud. He cut an impressive figure strutting around the chicken yard. But unlike other roosters I’ve had he wasn’t the least bit mean, bossy or cross. He was a gentleman.
Hmmm. This is a problem. I’m going to have to think on it.