Now, you've all heard a lot about Alasse. You've heard a lot.
But, before Alasse found me, I had two Banty hens. Banty hens, or more formally, Bantam Chickens, are a small variety of chicken. But Banty hens are not your ordinary poultry bird. I have raised a lot of chickens: Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas, but Banty hens are by far my favorite. Very noble birds, Bantys. They came from somewhere in Indonesia and have been domesticated for over 4,000 years. Marco Polo even said something favorable about them once.
Then there are the eggs. Some people don’t consider Bantys to be good layers because their eggs are so small. But while the Rhode Island Reds may have given me four large eggs a week, and the Araucanas did have really cool blue eggs, I was always happiest when I found a little Banty egg waiting for me in the coop.
The Banty is a handsome chicken. My Red Sussex Bantys were a dark, reddish brown, with a spattering of black feathers around the neck and in the tail. Very slim, very sleek. And while the Sussux Banty may not be as fancy as the Sebright, my girls were stunners. They loved to show off, spending a good part of the day preening and getting all their feathers in order.
But eggs and looks aside, Banty hens have more personality than any other chicken. This is why they were my favorite. My two hens would follow me anywhere. Sometimes I would carry them around in a little basket. They didn’t mind.
They slept in the coop with the others. And every morning it was my job to let them out for the day. Besides the Rooster, all the chickens were very tame. Some were older than I was at the time, but the younger ones had hatched in a cardboard box in my room. I repeatedly got in trouble for putting them all in my bed. My mother would be furious whenever she found me lying on the bed, letting them hop all over me, their peep-peep-peeping drowning out my giggles.
Then, when they were old enough, it was out to the coop. All the chickens were friendly, they would even come when called. But while the others strutted out on a pecking mission, the two little Bantys would spend the day with me. They trailed behind me or hopped into my basket for a free ride.
They were my first models. They would stand on the table, very still, and I would draw them. I would go through stacks and stacks of printer paper, sketching them again and again, day after day. I never got tired of drawing them. They never got tired of posing for me.
But most of all, I never lacked for inspiration, never wanted for something to draw. I had my Bantys, and you can never have too many paintings of the people you love.
Original paintings and prints available here.