One of my earliest memories is my grandmother's spring chickens.
Because Grampa's idea of a chicken yard was mostly, "Someday I'm gonna fix that chicken wire, Susie," Granny's chickens were free range before anyone used that term, wandering all over the beaten earth of the back yard and into the edge of the woods, only coming in to her coop to roost.
When the windows were open in warm weather I remember going to sleep with the soft clucking murmurs of hens settling in for the night, and waking up the next morning to the sound of roosters crowing.
Granny would tie on our sunbonnets and let me help her scatter corn for the spring chickens and stand on a small step to peek into the nests for eggs. Sometimes she had a basket for her egg gathering, but occasionally she used her apron to hold them.
(On some mornings a worm was more appealing to them than the corn.)
If I had been very good Granny let me carefully carry one of the little banty eggs, and it would be my breakfast the next day.
In years past I could often hear roosters crowing when I sat out front as the sun was coming up, and I remembered my grandmother and her spring chickens. Even now, I often think of her when I open a carton of eggs, and I can almost feel that corn in my palm.
I have had this little basket (about four a half inches high at its tallest) for quite a while, and even longer the tiniest chickens, about a quarter of an inch long, that came with a kit for a chicken coop that I purchased from Mary Bannon years ago.
Within the last year or so I purchased a card with three wee chicken stickpins- a rooster, hen and chick. It wasn't until I chanced upon a drawer full of various sizes of springs in one of my storage units that it all clicked - springs, chickens, basket. My newest visual pun - Granny's spring chickens!
I began with a brown wash to help define some of the features of the tiniest chickens. After that, it was easier to add painted eyes, a comb and feet.
My fold-up jeweler's magnifying glass proved useful in painting them, although it was awkward getting my toothpick brush inside.
Not all my experimenting worked as I thought it would, however. For instance, the original yellow spring feet on the left proved to be too tall and unsteady for the basket bottom feet. I wound up using the lower half only.
I glued the tiniest springs directly to the base of the tiny chickens, but for the three larger ones I bent the pins in order to make them appear to be pecking at or looking for something, sliding the spring up the pin to glue in place.
Once I had the chickens ready, I added a few touches to the plain basket. I began by painting the yellow beak, then poked white glass bead pins into the basket for eyeballs, adding a dot of black with a toothpick for the pupils.
Then I used red paint for the "comb" on top, and to line the interior of the beak.
This green foam, left after I removed wilted flowers from my Mother's Day flower arrangement, served to bring the interior up to "ground" level. I cut a circle of sandpaper for the chicken yard itself, drybrushing it for variation. I first poked holes in the sandpaper, then pushed the chickens into place. After I painted the inside rim blue to suggest sky, I used small plastic fencing to suggest the periphery of the chicken yard. Bits of railroad greenery and dried flower sprigs served for bushes and small trees.
It is not shown here, but I added a circle of black card into the recess in the outside bottom of the basket. I first poked two holes in the card for the basket feet before gluing it in place, and then pushed the pins on the yellow springs up from the bottom and into green foam, gluing them firmly. I added another small painted circle covered with green "grass"as a base for the basket feet so they would be better balanced.
The base appears black here, and not much shows unless you pick up the basket to look under it, however. But just as some people lift up dolls to see if they are wearing underpants, I wanted anyone peeking at the bottom to see feet if they did.
I hope you enjoyed Granny's spring chickens. It was fun having it all come together.