Broody Hens versus Me

I gave the impression in my last post that we’d be adopting chicks because chicks are in our future. Conveniently enough, the Cheshire County Fair happened last weekend. In anticipation of the event, I set up the quonset hut coop with Carl’s and my cousin Nate’s help. And cleaned it out and spread fresh pine shavings and sweet smelling hay in the nesting boxes. The quonset hut coop is a roomy, cozy, dark place, perfect  for two broody hens and their four chicks. Lulu, another cousin, had arrived from Oregon, herself pregnant and turning broody, and we all jumped into the car and headed to the fair. A hot, sunny day at the fair.

There, they have buildings full of stalls full of animals, and lots of mechanical rides, plastic toys and clothing made in China, stuff and more stuff, and then buildings where contests of who is the most disciplined oxen, who the most beautiful hen. And then lots of chicks cheeping. Cages and cages of chickens, some with blue ribbons. I was rapidly overwhelmed by indecision. Carl suggested we walk about the grounds to find a corn dog to satisfy Lulu’s craving.

The Country Fair is a Hitchcockian circus. I hoped to adopt four sentient creatures but that wouldn’t change the nasty, careless system that lurked behind the cute, fuzzy cheeps, the oxen and horses, sheep, goats and llamas. And then the baby wallaby who panted from fear or thirst, I didn’t know which. I debated kidnapping the creature as it hung in its fake pouch from a fence in the tent full of other animals baaing and looking about them for their mothers, all destined for human consumption and digestion. It was a large Friendly Farm and left me stressed because how save all those animals? Even if I managed to narrow my choice to four chicks, the misery would continue on.

Even if I decided to build a barn. To serve as sanctuary for traumatized farm animals. 

But how dare I presume such a thing when I can’t bring myself to decide whether to adopt unsexed chicks because I don’t have the nerve to break a broody hen?

I returned to the chicken tent, paced in front of cages full of chicks and adolescents, on to identifiable pullets and cockerels, and there was the rub. As  I debated the chick situation, I looked enviously at the clearly-this-is-a-hen-and-this-a-cockerel caged chickens. There would be no risk of more roos if I adopted four of the more grown modern dinosaurs. But they were too big to place under my broody hens. I’d look back at the chicks that would make my broody hens so happy, and me stressed because what if they all turned out to be boys. 

But they were so cute. The silkie chicks looked like fluffy penguins. And the Wyandottes reminded me of one of our original chicks, Chipper, when we first adopted her. And back and forth and then there were the five ducklings. Really, really cute and fluffy yellow, reminding me of my childhood favorite book character Ping of the Yangtze River

We opened Carl’s coin toss app. Heads we wouldn’t adopt chicks, tails we would. 

Heads. 

How disappointing. 

How grown up. For weeks, I’ve been debating. I’ve known I have to put the broody hens into cages and have avoided doing so. Not out of hope because I didn’t want to risk roos. So why? Was it laziness? Distraction? Or the look in their eyes and fluffy feathers every time I went out to remove them from their cozy nests? It felt worse to disappoint them than to discipline myself. But fortune and the coin toss convinced me.

Upon returning home, we set up the dog cage and put the two hens in. As I knew would happen, Squeaky attacked Toey and we had a hen fight on our hands. I removed Toey, and Carl set up another cage situation. Our two prisoners paced and protested but I walked away, stronger for having put my human will against theirs and won. 

And now? We are away and our house sitter reports that  Squeaky is broken, back to gallivanting with her sisters. But Toey remains broody. She is thinner and more intense every day. Fortunately, we have new friends who have ten broiler chicks arriving. I’ve offered to raise the chicks for them with the help of Toey. A win/win situation. Until it’s time to return the broilers to their home. Unnamed by me. I won’t get attached. 

Two exotics come with the broilers. If they are pullets we might be able to keep them. Too, I bear this fact in mind: after that first coin toss, I asked Carl to toss again. He did. It came up tails. And so we are going to adopt ducklings. Not today but some day.