As It Happens

Henry the hen is the crossing guard at this New Zealand school

Why did the chicken cross the parking lot? Because it's her job, of course. Henry the hen is the traffic patrol officer at Newstead Country Preschool in rural New Zealand, and she has the reflective yellow vest to prove it.

A chicken in a yellow vest is ‘just a really nice way to slow people down,’ says principal 

Henry the hen is the crossing guard at Newstead Country Preschool in New Zealand. (Submitted by Tracy Trigg)

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Why did the chicken cross the parking lot? Because it's her job, of course.

Henry the hen is the traffic patrol officer at Newstead Country Preschool in rural New Zealand. She even rocks a reflective yellow vest. 

But she didn't apply for the job so much as just started showing up and doing it.

"Henry is a self-appointed crossing guard," principal Tracy Trigg, who owns both the school and the hen, told As It Happens guest host Peter Armstrong.

"She was just hanging out in the car park and coming into the staff room and making it pretty obvious she thought she was part of the team. And, you know, when you've got a motivated self-starter you have to look after them."

The students at Newstead gather around to show Henry some love and attention. (Submitted by Tracy Trigg)

Henry ended up at the preschool by happy accident.

The lost chicken just appeared one day on the side of the road near Trigg's friend's house in the nearby city of Hamilton. She's super easygoing around people, and has her beak clipped, so Trigg suspects she escaped from a commercial farm.

"[My friend] was feeding it cheese and fattening it up, and it kept coming into her house and pooping on the carpet," Trigg said.

"So she suggested, 'Look, it's really friendly. The kids would love it because it eats out of your hand.' And so we agreed that I'd home this chicken."

Henry stands watch on the sign outside Newstead Country Preschool. (Submitted by Tracy Trigg)

And Newstead is the perfect home for a runaway chicken. The school is set on 15 acres of farmland, complete with chickens, goats and ponies, so the students are used to interacting with various animals.

But once again, Henry simply refused to stay put.

"Because she is really sociable, when everybody turned up on Monday, she was in the car park because that's where all the action was — and that's the way it stayed," Trigg said.

She turned out to be just what the school needed. Not only do the children adore her, Trigg said, but her presence in the parking lot means that parents always slow down to keep an eye out for her.

So Trigg ordered her a small yellow vest online and made it official. 

"It's just a really nice way to slow people down," she said.

Henry perches on a kid's arm in the parking lot. (Submitted by Tracy Trigg)

Henry's star began to rise when a New Zealand children's news service, Kea Kids News, showed up with a camera crew. Since then, the friendly fowl has been generating headlines around the world, including in the Washington Post, and now CBC.

Newstead's other animals are trying to follow Henry's road to stardom, Trigg said. 

"The rooster definitely thinks that he should be in the limelight, as you can probably hear him in the background," Trigg said over the sound of cock-a-doodle-dos.

"It used to be just Henry in the car park, and the other chickens were on the other side of pre-school, which is where they're meant to be. But now they've all sort of caught on that [the parking lot ] is where the fame is."

As for Henry's unconventional name, Trigg says it comes down to a misunderstanding. 

On the chicken's first day at Newstead, a local boy named Jake was convinced it was his family's hen, Henry, who followed him to school.

"So for the first full day, everybody genuinely thought that this was Jake's chicken because he was so convinced. And so all the children were calling it Henry, and Henry has stuck."


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Niza Lyapa Nondo.

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