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"Time Machine" is a regular column by Kat Pleviak published in the Puppeteers of America's quarterly "Puppetry Journal." She takes fun, creative, and poignant articles published in past issues and revives them to highlight the amazing contributions of past members of the American puppetry community.

Puppetry Journal, Spring 2014

Greetings puppet friends,

             Spring has officially sprung and this issue’s throwback article celebrates the season with directions on how to make a hen that lays eggs. This article was taken from the very first issue of the puppetry journal (pg.13) and was written and created by Joseph W. Owens. Joseph's interest in puppetry began while he was in school at the University of Kentucky and with the help of his wife Mary, he went on to do his first puppet show in 1939 that featured this very hen. The puppet and article were such a success Joe went on to teach how to make this puppet at a festival workshop in 1961. So this hen gets around and it's my pleasure to help spread this design one more time. I have also included Joseph's obituary which has some great details about his life and career in puppetry. If you go ahead and make it please email a picture to, we would love to see it. Happy building!

-Kat Pleviak

Trick Puppets

The Hen That Lays Golden Eggs
By Joe Owens.

In our production of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack’s hen really lays golden eggs-four of them in fact. The eggs were turned on the wood lathe from Sugar Pine-a hole was drilled axially in the large end about halfway thru and filled with a lead plug. Eggs were painted gold color and when laid would roll around.  This movement makes them highly visible to the audience. The hen cackled, laid an egg, hopped around and cackled some more, then laid another at the command of the Giant un till all four were laid.

The mechanism is simple, in fact, the fewer pieces a mechanism has, the more reliable it is.

Our hen stands 8” high to the top of  her head-the body is 6” long inside (measured along the axis of the egg tube).

The eggs are 1” diameter by 1 3/8” long, so the long tube “A” is 4 ¼” long to hold 3 eggs easily. The laying tube “B” is 1 3/8” long to hold just one egg.

The tubes are of thin brass 1-1 1/6” diameter. Tube “A” has 2 bearing brackets “C” soldered to either side. They provide the bearing for the pivots “D” which are soldered to each side on the center lines of tube “B”.

A brass strip “E” formed as shown is soldered underneath tube “B” so that when “B” pivots to lay egg No. 1 stop strip “E” blocks end of tube “A” so that egg No. 2 stays in it’s place until tube “B” returns to it’s original position, at which time egg No. 2 is free to slide down into tube “B”. Stop strip “E” has its end bent at right angels to itself and acts as a stop preventing tube “B”‘s rotation beyond the vertical position.

A brass strip “F” is fastened just inside the hens body and extends just to egg exit. This strip provides a smooth guide for egg so that it slides out easily. A lever are “G” is soldered to the back end of the tube “B” and is operated by a small bronze wire thru a hold in the free end which goes up through the top of hen’s body ending in a small eye.  Operating string ties into this eye “outside” the body so that “in case” a string breaks it is easily replaceable. A small spring “H” returns tube “B” to it’s original position for the “next” egg.

Load egg in hen Heavy end up – they spin more that way when they are laid. O.K. – now make one and I hope yours works as well as ours does!


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