i know this chicken

She is a real survivor. She left the coop a few years ago and took a posse with her. They took up in the turkey coop, which is now a duck coop, and lived sort of happily until a raccoon got her best friend and her mate. Then I noticed her missing and I was a bit frantic because she had grown on me. Her independent spirit, her zest for life, her being the one to catch the early worm…

So I looked for her, expecting to find remains. Instead I found her perched on top of a round bale of hay in Beauty’s barn. (For those who do not know, Beauty is a neutered mule.) There she was sitting on a pile of eggs.

The raccoons and skunks have been very busy this year and I was leery of leaving her alone outside, but I came to realize that Beauty was protecting her. I would watch him hanging about his barn more often these days and venturing inside which he seldom did unless it was storming. And on more than one early evening I saw him gallop in that direction of the barn, snorting. I wouldn’t mess with Beauty. I doubt anybody would. So I hunched she was going to be OK.

My next awakening to my chicken friend was when I realized that she was sitting and sitting and those eggs were never going to hatch because they were not fertile – her mate had died earlier in the year. So there I was in the sheep barn and I spied three unattended fertile eggs. What were the chances? Would she be able to sit that much longer? I grabbed the eggs and sprinted to her perch. I had a young friend with me and I noted that with a little luck we might still have baby chicks this year. I carefully deposited the fertile eggs beside her.

We left her not certain the eggs would be accepted, but when I went back a bit later I saw that she had pulled them under her, and that now she continued that direct, blank stare of one who is intent on making something miraculous happen.

Days later I wanted to take a peak and I saw her at a distance pecking and strutting as if she were already a mom. I checked the nest for shells or rotting eggs. No shells. This was simply one of those moments when the chicken mom decides it is warm enough, hedges her bets and flees for a moment’s respite, water and hopefully and insect or two. I had just enough time to pull some of the “dead” eggs before she hustled back to her nest. I didn’t want the smell to tip off a predator.

Each night I reminded Beauty to watch over her, needlessly of course, as he was devoted to his new companion. And then one day, it happened. I heard someone yell, “Beauty is an uncle!” And so he was. Only one of the three survived. I suspect the chick was a few days old when we saw him. Most likely bored waiting on the others to hatch, he had enough of the nest and took a dive over the side of the bale. The mother must have been beside herself and as there was no way to escort him back to the nest, she carried on with that the little one.

If you haven’t witnessed it, there is nothing quite like the devotion of a mother hen to her young. Fierce at the slightest provocation and teaching every step of the way…

We have a small shed for them now, while we build a new one on wheels. She is such an adventurer; I think it only fitting…

Summer’s ecstasy and frenetic pace are slowing now. I hope to use the winter to tell the tales that have been spun. Wishing you well. Let kindness win.

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