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A Love Story
The life and times of Emmett, Jessie and me

Just four years ago I became a chicken keeper, after a life-changing visit to the Okanogan County Fair.  

photoJane Gilbertsen's life as a chicken keeper began with Jessie and Emmett.

When I walked into the poultry barn I was struck dumb by the beauty of four giant chickens- the girls were blue, partridge and gold lace Cochins. The Cochin cockerel might have been a red/brown which I think makes him genetically color neutral. Two of the hens had JUST laid an egg. The eggs were still wet from the protective coating they get at the very last minute before hitting the straw bedding. A kind young 4H gentleman said I could have the eggs, they were just going to be put on the back counter for someone to take home and eat.

It was meant to be

At that point I knew nothing about fertile eggs and incubation. Afraid they needed to be kept warm continuously, I put them inside my sports bra and rushed home. They went from the bra to a "basket/lightbulb/damp sponge" nest, then the school's styrofoam incubator and finally, a fancy little three-egg model which arrived by Fed Ex.  On the 19th day they began wiggling and peeping to each other. No eggs since (and by now I have hatched hundreds of chicks), have ever been so vigorous or noisy as these two.  They fairly burst out of their shells right on schedule, day 21.

From that time on they were inseparable. I named them Emily for my grandmother and Jessie for a favorite great aunt. Emily became Emmett, a gentle giant. Jessie was his cherished, protected, but unproductive love.

Hatching in October meant they would live in the kitchen. Much of the time the top was off the box. Only once was there a brief escape. Emmett spotted a loose grape on the counter and did a mad dash across the counter to grab it. Otherwise, they sat on the side of the box like a couple of parrots and monitored all activity. As they grew we built an addition and then a mezzanine so they could have more space and a better view of the world.  

The weather was unseasonably cold that year, so they did not move outdoors with the big girls until the end of January. They were great company during the darkest days of the year. After joining the coop, Emmett endured a couple of good pecks from the hens. He had never experienced unpleasantness before. It was not until a hen pecked Jessie that he realized they did not have to put up with it. You could see from his expression when the light went on. It only took one lesson. From then he was king and Jessie was golden. Nobody messed with Emmett's girl.

photoEmmett later, as the gallant ruler of the roost with part of his flock, including his best girl.

I had read about the gallantry of the rooster but until I watched him give every treat to Jess and take care of the entire flock I didn't really understand it. He ruled the roost. When I would enter to do chores he always stepped forward to greet me. I needed his permission to pass, he always gave it but I had to be patient. Less respect was a trespass, although kids were permitted most anything.

Jess produced a couple eggs. One hatched and is my hen Kol. Thankfully, Kol lays some eggs but Jess was simply a trophy wife. It did not matter, it was never about the eggs.

They both died last winter during the cold spell. Their deaths closed a chapter of my chicken-keeping journey. I thank them for some fine memories. So you see, this really is a love story about a threesome.




Have a comment? >>

Lovely story! You are a caring friend to your chickens.

Karen Edwards


This writer is my sister and she loves her chickens. Our whole family knows it and is happy for her. Life needs to keep giving and Jane's chickens have done that for her. They are a good family.



If I am ever a chicken, I hope I am one of Jane's birds.

Gloria Spiwak


Great story Jane. Emmett and Jesse will be missed. We have vivid memories of them evolving in the nest on the counter in the kitchen. Do you have a Chicken Hall of Fame? Suzanne

Suzanne Spencer


I quite agree with Jane's attachment, they are quite beautiful and loving, if you speak chicken, and Jane does! And, she has taught me to speak chicken too! Thank you Jane!

Charlotte Nelson