We have a very happy hen on our hands.
Two days ago, we returned to Darwin’s View from my annual family reunion, and I moved the broody hen, hissing and screaming, to the Quonset hut where she paced for the rest of the day. I suspected that she would lose her desire for chicks just to spite me but we were committed. Off Carl and I drove to our new friend Elizabeth’s house who had adopted ten broiler chicks with two exotics thrown in for free by the hatchery. Please let them be pullets, not roos.
Elizabeth has a beautiful farm. The gardens are weeded, neat and organized unlike some gardens I might point to if in the mood to be critical of what Carl and I are up to here on this windy hill top. Elizabeth has a chicken tractor in the middle of a healthy field full of hay, not thistle and that yellow, pollen ridden ragweed that is rampant in ours. As she herded two escapee hens back to their coop in the drizzling rain, she and I agreed the Speckled Sussex are our favorite breed of chicken. They are so frisky and adventurous and friendly. And then we headed to the barn where she has a Devon cow with adoring—or do I adore?—brown eyes and long lashes, and her baby, three weeks old and a girl, too. It is the cows who have made Elizabeth’s field so lush. The hooves and the poo. The dedicated, steady munching and mowing of the grasses. We need more of them on our fields.
Not ours. I meant to suggest the bigger picture. The big AG picture of monoculture crops on farmland that is left bare and thus eroding every winter season. They need cover crops and cows. Diversity of species, not pesticides and herbicides that kill everything indiscriminately. But I digress.
Though, really, that is the point.
On the other side of the barn are two families of goats. Big goats. Hornless. And when she separated the two families, so obedient! Every one of the goats well-trained. Carl’s comment about that elicited from Elizabeth words from which I infer that life is not always idyllic at her farm. Breach births. A virgin birth from a sexually fluid goat have added excitement and interest to that farm’s days. Carl looked at me and I at him and we silently agreed, for the time being, that we have enough excitement and interest in our lives without adding goats.
Speaking of chicks, into the garage we went. I heard them cheeping before seeing the oval, fenced in area with a heat lamp, a bit of hay and ten honey-colored chicks, rocketing about, playing and napping. It didn’t matter, boys or girls. They were all going to have happy lives until they were of an age to eat. But not the fuzzy black one, nor the white blonde. With a muffin top.
Because of my experiences with Mo and Muff, the buff Polish chicks we adopted two years ago along with our two Wyandottes and two Speckled Sussex chicks, I had promised myself that I want nothing to do with any more featherhead-dressed chickens. But there s/he was: beady black eyes, upright and alert and chirping loudly and insistently. She seemed to ask, Where is my mother? Even as I asked was that a mohawk (boy) or a muffin top (girl)? I hoped it was a muffin top. Schtude will be thrilled to have some lady girlfriend who looks just like him.
I don’t know what breed the black one is but both chicks ended up in a small box with holes in it for air. To my vast relief, a misunderstanding was clarified: we were not taking the ten broilers. Only the exotics. And so with two peeps in hand, we headed back home along the bumpy, rutted roads of Jaffrey.
Muffy was particularly vocal. That’s why little chicks peep so much: they are calling for their mother. A big, feathery furnace to keep them warm and tended to. A heating lamp doesn’t serve the purpose. Though it is awfully nice. To be warm. Within thirty seconds of feeling the heat on their little bodies, both chicks began to get heavy lidded. The black one went down first, beck on the ground, sound asleep. Her sister followed suit not long afterward.
Meantime, Toey continued to pace. I didn’t feel too hopeful. Had she broken herself of her broodiness? That would be just the way things go. And two roos. . ..
Carl and I stayed up past my bedtime, watching a “Wooster and Jeeves” episode on YouTube to keep us awake until it got dark outside. It rained. But we had chicks to deliver. Out we went, I carrying the box of chicks, and Carl holding the flashlight. At the Quonset hut, he lifted the nesting box roof. Toey was in the nest on the two eggs I had put in there for that purpose. I removed the eggs and replaced them with the chicks. A hen’s coo. The chicks
peeps quieted immediately. A happy family created.
It’s summertime and I’ll keep posting on Tuesdays and Fridays but can’t promise much about energy until the summer full-speed ahead has slowed down a bit. Nature meantime does what she does. We have four resident baby turkeys, too.