Two nights ago, a marans hen of mine was taken either by a fox or coyote (that’s my hunch anyway). I found the familiar pile of feathers in the hedgerow. It was my Wild Child, a hen who loved to sleep in the trees, lay eggs in my outdoor sink, and carry on and shriek after she laid them. She was special.
As part of yin and yang I suppose, the next morning the barn was filled with the sound of peeping chicks. I am not even sure where this hen was sitting but she had 4 little chicks. This is not a very good picture of her, but she is a very protective mama and I could not get very close without scattering them all.
As it turned out, the fourth chick hatched later than the others. Even a few hours makes a big difference in their development. Mama left him behind and he ended up spending the day with a duck hen, sitting on her own eggs. It was actually pretty cute to see the chick run all over mama duck’s back and the scoot back underneath her for a quick warm up. But ducks don’t make good chicken mamas. For example, I had to rescue the chick from the waterer once yesterday as mama duck was taking a bath and little chick was trying to mimic her actions. Chicks aren’t meant to get so wet so I washed the dirt off of him and dried him off, making sure he was warm before I put him back out. I tried putting him with mama hen, but he was determined to stick with the duck.
Later in the afternoon, some heavy rain moved into our area. Ducks love rain. Mama duck joined the other ducks and stood out in the rain, basking it in. Little chick was there too, but like I said, chicks aren’t meant to get wet so I again scooped him up and took him back inside. He spent the rest of the day in a sock, sleeping it off.
Fast forward to evening and bedtime. I found mama hen and her 3 chicks and placed them in a kennel in the barn to protect them from night time visitors. Mama was none too happy to be picked up — and I have the scars to prove it — but she quieted down once she realized I had her chicks too. Once ensconced, she settled down with the chicks under her and I thought it was a perfect time to introduce little chick once more. He was happy to be there and quickly scooted under mama hen. I went on with my evening chores.
Not 20 minutes later I returned to close the barn door when I noticed that mama hen had shown her true colors. Little chick lay, feet up, next to her. Mama hen had killed the chick, not recognizing it as her own anymore.
Thinking about it, the death was probably inevitable as little chick was very small, weak and prone to crying (peep! peep! peep!) for no reason. He was hatched wearing the red shirt of doom. But still the softie in me is saddened by the cruel and unusual punishment that mama hen dished out, and I wonder if I had done something differently that the little chick would have had a different fate.