Tag / Plimoth Plantation

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

The Pilgrim’s Chickens

pilgrim's chickens from Plimoth Plantation

Yesterday I took the kids to Plimoth Plantation on an outing. We love visiting this hands-on “living” museum about the lives of the original colonists and the Wampanoag Indians.  In the 1600s, when the pilgrims sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower, they brought with them many things from England.  This included items such as pottery, metal cooking vessels, furniture, fabric, clothing and beer.  They also brought various animals as well as heritage breed chickens for meat and eggs.  Once ashore, their chickens spent their lives free-ranging about the plantation.  This might explain why the older heritage breeds to this day have hens that grow spurs.  Protection was very important.

As we walked the grounds, my children paid little attention to anything except for the chickens.  They took great pleasure in finding the chickens dispersed in the vegetable and herb gardens, along the rock walls and tucked into corners underneath planks of wood.  We saw many chickens running away as tourists tried to approach, yet somehow the chickens were never afraid of myself or the kids.

We walked up to them gently, cooing chicken talk.  Despite not knowing us, somehow they did not fear us. We spent a good half hour or so, sitting in the garden to the side of the cottage watching some of the world’s best composters and exterminators till the earth and eat a found bug here and there.  A cool breeze blew off the ocean and we sat amongst the chickens on the ground.  As we sat they came and looked around at us.  Eventually, we were surrounded by about five chickens or so, all happy to have new company at their garden smorgasbord.

Somehow, those hens knew, that we were “one of them”.  Did they smell our chickens on us?  Could they understand our gentle ways or the way that we spoke to them?  People that walked through the garden asked how we got the chickens to come so close to us.  My kids smiled and said, “Maybe they somehow know that we keep chickens too.”

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest


Plimoth Plantation

When I was a little girl growing up in the seventies, I can remember a book my Dad won from his company.  I can remember it well, because we did not have very many of books like this one.  It was large, with lots of beautiful pictures.  It was about the 50 states of America.  I remember sitting on the floor with my sister, before I could even truly read just staring at the pictures.  We especially favored the ones from Massachusetts.  We had learned about the early settlers, the pilgrims and the Native Americans.  On the Massachusetts page, were brilliant photos of the Mayflower, a Native American and a village.  The pictures were from Plimoth Plantation.  My sister and I visited and looked at that wonderful book often.  We connected with that book as we learned about the first Thanksgiving, the Mayflower and the history of our country.  To us, it was a far away place in a book that we could only dream of visiting.

When I moved to Massachusetts in my 30’s that simple childhood dream became a reality.  I was able to walk in the footsteps of the Pilgrim and their lives.  The book had come to life and I was a foreign character in their role playing world.  Today, I revisited again, only this time with my son, who is about the same age as I was when I would stare at that photo book with my sister for hours, laying on our stomachs near the hallway bookshelf.
Today, there were chickens.  The Pilgrims brought chickens over on the Mayflower and in this village, it seems as though you have stepped back in time almost 400 years.  The chickens free range within the village.  During our stay, we saw about 4 hens and two roosters.  The chickens were not skittish.  I probably could have easily picked one up.  However, sadly, there were some mean spirited children trying to harm the chickens.  My sharp words fell on deaf ears and I certainly was not going to give away the one secret the chickens did not want me to share with them; how to hold a chicken.  
17th Century Village, looking out onto the ocean
Elizabeth, a servant, working off her passage to America debt.  It took 7 years.
Every home had a garden in raised beds with vegetables, legumes and herbs
Myles Standdish’s second wife and servant cooking duck
Typical housewares of the time

I had not thought about that book for over 30 years.  My sister and I soon outgrew it, as family trips across the country replaced the pictures in that book.  My parents divorced, and sadly I do not know what came of that beautiful book.  Today, I felt the magic that I felt when I was 7 years old staring into that book, only this time it was better.  I was here in person with my son.
This post is linked up to Homestead Revivals’ Homestead Barnhop.
Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest