"Mostly, she likes to take her time crossing the drive and inspecting the cars," the principal of the preschool revealed.
Tracy Trigg's mornings these days begin with an unusual task: dressing her hen in a fluorescent vest. The hen named Henry is the traffic patrol officer at the rural Newstead Country Preschool which Trigg started with her family in 1997 adjacent to her small farm in Newstead, New Zealand. Once dressed in her very official-looking uniform, Henry struts around the parking area, squawking and greeting the students for about 15 minutes before the school day begins at 8 a.m. "Mostly, she likes to take her time crossing the drive and inspecting the cars," Trigg, who is principal of the preschool, told The Washington Post.
Henry first came into Trigg's life came late last year as a stray chicken that wandered into a friend's living room out of the blue. "My friend started hand-feeding her because she was quite thin," said Trigg. "We think she was a rescue hen as her beak had been trimmed, and we found she really loved grated cheese." When Henry continued to sneak into her friend's home to relieve herself on the carpet, it was decided that the hen would be much happier on Trigg's farm. "We popped her into the paddock with the other chickens that weekend," Trigg said. "But when all the [preschool] families turned up Monday, she moved herself to the car park."
The brown shaver hen flew the coop to join the preschoolers at playtime on the 15-acre farm one day and once she was familiar with the preschool and the places she was allowed to roam, decided to hang out in the parking lot in the morning. Henry also makes her way to the staff room at teatime and lunchtime. "She likes to look for crumbs under the table — but Henry will do backflips for cheese," Trigg joked. Speaking of Henry's commitment to her role as the traffic patrol officer, Trigg said she is effective at traffic control, and about as reliable as chickens go.
"She's a bit of a fair-weather worker, and if it's raining, she knocks off early," Trigg said. Henry became an overnight celebrity in Newstead after a 9-year-old reporter from Kea Kids News did a story about the unusual security chicken in mid-August. "There certainly has been a lot of international interest," Trigg said. "It's lucky that she's a humble hen, or it would surely go to her head. Our rooster is a bit jealous of all the attention she is getting."
Noticing Henry squawking at drivers in the parking lot, Trigg decided to get her an outfit that matched the job and ordered a security guard vest for the hen. "I Googled 'hi vis for chickens' and to my surprise, a New Zealand poultry supplier had them, so I ordered one," she explained. "She was pretty relaxed and compliant about wearing the jacket. Now we pop it on first thing in the morning and take it off around lunchtime. As long as there is cheese involved, she's happy to go along with it. I thought it would bring smiles to the faces of our parents and teachers, and also highlight to the children that we all need to be safe in the car park and around vehicles."
The sight of Henry strutting about in the security guard vest is definitely one much appreciated by parents at the preschool. "Henry is an absolute hoot," said Erin McIlmurray, whose 4-year-old, Molly, attends the school. "Some preschools might see a chicken in the car park as an annoyance, but we love Molly's preschool because they do fun things like this. The staff have identified Henry's skills and have encouraged her to live her best life. I think it's fantastic."