Shelley Botts: “Crooked Betty – the biggest character I've ever had in my flock.”
Shelley Botts spoke with the Missouri on Mic team at the Central Missouri Renaissance Festival in October.
She lives in Columbia and raises chickens in her backyard and calls herself “The Hen Wife.” She shared some stories of her unusual brood, and the strong personalities that come out in the aptly named “Betty trio.”
Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.
Shelley Botts: Well, what I do to earn money is I work at the University of Missouri. It’s probably the least interesting thing about what I do. I'm very interested in gardening and making things and my family.
I think we're a great place for sustainable farming, for local growing, for people being able to grow food and make products that they can use and share.
I have an illegal amount of chickens in my backyard. When my daughter was 13 years old, she reminded me that all of her friends had chickens and we didn't, and she insisted that we get our first six.
"Crooked Betty is always the one that you got to watch out for her sneaking out. She will sneak out of the coop and given a chance she might sneak into the kitchen."Shelley Botts
That was probably five or six years ago pretty soon after the chicken ordinance went into effect in Missouri, and since then I've become “The Hen Wife,” the “Crazy Chicken Lady” in the family.
This year I have gotten a new small batch and they have really fun names. I call them “Banter Banal and the Brown Bettys.” The star of that clan is Crooked Betty.
She wasn't terribly crooked personality-wise at first, but she has kind of a small crick in her neck that makes her feathers stick out, and so that's how she got the name “Crooked Betty,” and she lives with her other two Bettys - Smooth Betty and Nonstick Betty
Nonstick Betty had a number of names and none of them would stick until finally – nonstick stuck.
Crooked Betty is always the one that you got to watch out for her sneaking out. She will sneak out of the coop and given a chance she might sneak into the kitchen.
When the weather's nice, I might leave the door open and they're always looking for snacks – chickens always always always want the snacks.
So, she's coming to the house looking for what I might have in the compost bucket on the floor or to see if I might, you know, share some bread with her – you know, whatever. She'll take whatever is on offer.
The other day I saw her do the most crooked Betty thing ever.
There was a small spiderweb on the corner of her house and it was a little high for her to reach, but I don't know if most people know this – chickens can jump.
So, she jumped up a few times, and finally, in the last try, she got that spider!
Banter tried to steal it from her, but it was Crooked Betty’s spider, and she ate it up.
I'm hoping that there's going to be further tales of Crooked Betty, and I might even write her a poem and put it on some ceramics just to memorialize Crooked Betty – the biggest character I've ever had in my flock.