A few months ago we took in four chickens that had been being mistreated by a friends' neighbor. The poor chickens were super thin and had been kept in wooden boxes separated from sunlight and each other for who-knows how long. We isolated them from our chickens (to make sure they didn't have any diseases) and started nurturing them back to full chicken-health. After about a month they stopped being scared of each other, and after another month they stopped being afraid of us. A month after that they started laying eggs (they hadn't been able to do that due to malnutrition and lack of sunshine)! We became pretty attached to them and they seemed to like us, too. They like to follow us around the property and have become pretty tame. Sadly, two of these "crazy chickens," as we call them, got eaten by Bentley, as you can read about in other posts. Then, it seemed that the remaining red hen lost her mind.
It started when she failed to come home at sundown. One of the things that makes chickens easy to raise is their instinct to roost at night, and their tendency to return "home" around dusk. Every night all my hens make their way back to the hen house and are roosting on their rails when I come to tuck them in (I don't really - I just close and lock the door to keep raccoons out). So when the crazy red hen didn't come home one night, I thought maybe she had been eaten. However, about a week later, I heard a huge chicken ruckus in the pasture, and that crazy bird came bursting out of the long grass clucking and flapping her wings like a maniac. She charged around in circles a few times, then took off in a different direction, not to be seen again for another week. The second sighting was similar to the first: she came streaking past me flapping her wings and making all sorts of weird clucking noises, then charged off into the pasture again. I figured she had simply gone nuts - not totally surprising given her past life and the fact that our dog ate two of her best friends. I hadn't seen her for another week and just assumed that she was passing her crazy days out in the field or that some predator had finally carried her off.
Well, today I returned home after getting 3 root canals (yes, you read that right) and stopped into the hen house to quickly fill up the food canister. There, eating comfortably and looking perfectly sane, was my crazy red hen! I said "Well, hello! Nice to see you back home!" She looked at me, swallowed, took a step to the left, and this is what I saw:
FOUR BABY CHICKS!!!! Baby chicks that didn't come in the mail - baby chicks that one of my very own chickens hatched by sitting on a secret nest of eggs for 3 weeks! I am absolutely thrilled! I don't know if I've ever been more shocked - we don't even have a rooster (and in case you are wondering, yes, you need a rooster to get baby chicks. Chickens are just like us: they need to be, um, married in order to have babies, if you know what I mean...) I am trying to remember if we killed Roostofferson less than 3 weeks ago. If not, perhaps one of our neighbors' roosters did the honors. Anyways, we have quadruplets! How very exciting!
I am off to research next steps. I can just picture my stupid dog snapping each of those little babies up like fluffy Twinkies. I've locked the door of the hen house so they can't get out, and am working on building them a little home of their own to be safe in. I'm so happy that Crazy Red Hen felt safe enough with us to bring her babies home. And happy that I'm not the chicken mommy this time - real chicken mommies seem much better cut out for raising chicks. :)