A Professor and Her ‘Feathered Child’

Staff Writer: Michael Wayne O’Neill

Tap. Tap. Tap. A peculiar, talkative chicken named Henrietta wandered around Dr. Sylvia Little-Sweat’s yard at the end of the Fall 2021 semester. Dr. Little-Sweat waited a long time for her to open the door, and a simple communication with her beak opened a door for a new friendship.

At first, Little-Sweat was shocked to find the chicken plopped on her front porch after ‘ringing’ the door, but the beloved pet immediately became accustomed to her.

The black bantam chicken, Henrietta, had a variety of iridescent feathers, including shades of royal blue, purple, and green all over her back. It would be a saving grace to Little-Sweat because she was alone and needed a companion.

They became inseparable like two peas in a pod.

“She was just one of my children,” Little-Sweat said. “She’s not my child, but she’s my feathered child with iridescent.”

However, when Little-Sweat arrived home after giving exams, she saw hawks soaring across the residence. They were about to pounce on Henrietta. She was petrified by the screeching sounds. So was Little-Sweat.

Immediately, Little-Sweat made her bowl like a nest with a towel covering Henrietta to nest. She put the bowl under her platter so the hawks could not get to her.

“She would’ve been a dead chicken,” Little-Sweat said. “When I saw those hawks coming up the walk-in broad daylight, I made a call to my son (Wes Little) and I said ‘Well. I want you to order me a chicken coop online tonight because I cannot let that chicken be eaten by hawks or an owl.”

That’s exactly what Wes did to save the day for the two of them. Since that moment, no other animal has been near Henrietta.

The two communicate from a short distance with Henrietta making burbles and Little-Sweat carrying on conversations. Little-Sweat also saves each egg she lays because she is drying up each egg over time.

“I want to brush easter egg designs on them,” Little-Sweat said. “I want to varnish them, make them strong, and I want to paintbrush them with easter egg designs.”

Little-Sweat plans to paint the eggs when she retires from Wingate, but she has no plans to leave her “residence” in Burris Hall.

After 13 months of tending to Henrietta’s needs, Little-Sweat is tranquil, knowing she did everything in her power to welcome her into her home. She looks forward to raising Henrietta and reading her poems to the bantam chicken.

“I never thought about having a chicken that I would look forward to gathering eggs from that I would talk to from the porch,” Little-Sweat said. “That’s the bigness of life. That’s the unplanned part of life. … I just hope she lives a long time.”

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