The Merry Little Lentil Hen

Roy Green was a farmer. He had a little plot not far out of town where he specialised in growing greens for the local vegetarian restaurants. Although he sometimes varied his crops his staples were kale, bean sprouts and lentils. And because he was an organic farmer his products received a high premium when sold to his environmentally sensitive clientele.

Roy had married his childhood sweetheart, Betty, and she was an enthusiastic contributor to his farming endeavours. One of Betty’s roles was to look after the chickens. That wasn’t a demanding task because they only had a half dozen which they kept for their own egg consumption. Being true to their green ethos their chickens were free range. During the day they were given free access to various parts of the farm to forage as they desired. As well as the chickens the Greens kept a couple of milking goats. They were kept in a stall in their little barn. Like the chickens they were strategically allowed to browse some of the plots in between plantings.

The last hen that they had acquired was a gift from another local farmer, Peter, whom they had befriended. He assured them that the little red hen came from good stock and should be a reliable layer. The little hen was still somewhat immature and wasn’t yet laying. But Peter was adamant that after another month or so she should be regularly making a contribution of eggs to their small household.

Betty grew quite fond of their latest acquisition. She followed it around solicitously observing it as closely as she could. The little bird seemed quite happy in its new surroundings and seemed to grow attached to Betty, making amiable little clucking noises when Betty was near. “How goes my merry little hen?” Betty would ask in response.

One of the bird’s idiosyncrasies, Betty discovered, was that when the chickens were allowed out of their coop to forage amongst the crops the little red hen invariably went to the lentils. As a result she christened the bird her “lentil hen”. Thus when she came across her in the field she would say, “How goes my merry lentil hen?”

But after a while Betty became worried. There was no indication the hen was laying and it was well past the time that Peter had nominated. Roy was very taciturn when Betty broke this news to him.

“I know you love that little hen but we can’t afford to keep her if she doesn’t lay. Christmas is only a couple of weeks away, if she’s not laying by then I think she might need to be our Christmas dinner.”

Whilst Betty was somewhat appalled by this suggestion, as a true farmer’s wife she knew all their livestock were essentially factors of production and she couldn’t afford to get too sentimental about it. But in support of the little hen, she increased her surveillance hoping against hope that she might find evidence that the hen was indeed laying.

Then one day as she was tending the lentils Betty noticed the little hen wasn’t there. Shortly afterwards, the hen arrived. “Where have you been, little hen?” she mused. She thought little more of it. But the next day the hen was again missing. Now Betty was really intrigued.

On the following day when Betty let the hens out of their coop she determined to follow the little red hen to see where she went. Trailing her at a distance Betty watched the hen go to the barn. A short time later the hen emerged clucking merrily to herself.

Betty went in to the barn to investigate. She searched for fifteen minutes or so until she came to a dark corner at the very rear. Here she discovered a pile of straw, obviously emanating from what the goats had kicked out of their stalls. But when she looked closely, the clump of straw had been arranged in a regular way. She made a little gasp. It was indeed a nest! And when she bent down to examine it more closely, nestled inside were five eggs.

Seemingly, whilst the other hens were content to lay in the nests constructed in the hen coop, the little red hen preferred to lay outside in the safe confines of the barn.

In her excitement she called out, “Roy! Roy!”

Roy, who was working nearby, ran to the barn. “Betty,” he exclaimed, “Are you all right?”

“Oh, yes. I am fine my love, I just have something wonderful to show you.”

“What is it Betty?”

She gestured to the pile of straw. “This is the lentil hen’s nest. And see, it is full of eggs. Can we keep her now?”

“Yes, of course, dear. It is fitting we should keep such a productive little creature.”

Betty put her arms around Roy and hugged him. “I am so pleased,” she said.

Well it is no surprise that someone should write a Christmas song about a story as happy as this. Here is how it went.

God rest ye merry lentil hen

Let nothing you dismay

The farmer’s wife has found your eggs

Just nestled in the hay

And so you won’t be Christmas din

Now you’ve began to lay

Glad tidings from Betty and Roy

Betty and Roy

Glad tidings from Betty and Roy



[Now it is a true fact that this famous Christmas song is one of the very few Christmas songs written in a minor key. It was probably to acknowledge that the lentil hen was indeed a very young bird.]

4 Replies to “The Merry Little Lentil Hen”

  1. Ted,
    What a wonderful story, thank you so much!
    I must confess, to my shame, I recently plagiarised another of your famous Christmas stories; “Rudolf the Red knows rain dear.”
    Merry Christmas to you, Val and the family,
    Larry W

    1. I am glad you liked it Larry. Don’t apologise for using my stories – I take that as a compliment. Best wishes to you and Jenny. I trust you have a happy Christmas.

  2. Great story Ted – quick question and apologies if it (rightly) sounds like a request for one last piece of coaching before I finally down pens and play more golf – in your email you mention that you “will be the first to admit that I have fallen into the trap of being overly concerned with the travails of the world after (all I am only human) and forgetting the transcendental nature of our being” – any tips to avoid that trap as I think I am getting deeper into it with too much spare time!!!!
    Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you and yours.

    1. Bernard, what an excellent question!
      To me it generally happens when I get too wrapped up in my external world.
      (You will remember, as I have explained many times before, because of our consciousness we have to deal with both an external world and an internal world. Despite what people commonly believe, our sense of well-being is largely derived from the state of our internal world.)
      Normally it is political and social concerns that distract me. Because of my energy background I get affronted by the Government intervening in the electricity market. As a long term proponent of Aboriginal advancement I get affronted by the injustice and ineffectual politically correct response that is the “Voice”. And there are a few other issues that tend to get under my skin.
      But when I think about it I know that losing my sense of equanimity not only renders me less effective but also is a form of afflictive self-punishment that never works in the long term.
      So, you might ask, should I disengage myself entirely from the world? I don’t think so. I will continue to speak out on the worldly issues that concern me. But I have to be reconciled with the fact that many of these things are beyond my personal capacity to control. So there is no real point in railing against many of the injustices of the world. When I have done what I reasonably can do I should be content.
      Even though retired and more useless than I once was, I still have some projects where I am happy to invest my time in a pro bono way to progress pet causes which I find satisfying. (I guess this is confirmation of what the Positive Psychologists advise about finding a cause that is greater than yourself.)
      When “the world is too much with us” as Wordsworth famously put it there are two other useful strategies to adopt.
      1. Continue to interrogate yourself on the question of “Who am I?” Be assured you are not your body, not your mind, not your name, not your profession, nationality, gender or many other markers of identity that most of us hang on to, This is a very grounding process.
      2. Meditate. When you are able to still the mind you will gain more clarity about the things that matter.

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