A mother hen is fun to watch. She clucks to her babies to follow her and then watches to make sure they are with her. She will double back if necessary to find the lost chick calling for her. She teaches them, showing them where they can find food and water. She gathers them under her wings at night and keeps them warm in the midst of her feathers. She protects them. She puffs up her feathers and dares anyone get near her babies. I've seen a mother hen go all ninja chicken and kick a horse in the face for sniffing too close to her babies. (Think Angry Birds.) The horse backed up and walked off too, snorting a "whatever," as she turned around. Yeah a mother hen is fun to watch.
Greta is a good mother hen. She sat on several eggs, but through circumstances that were beyond her control, was only able to hatch two live chicks. Then, about 10 days or so after her chicks hatched, a single egg I had stashed in an incubator hatched a lone baby chick. (This compliments of a guinea that had commandeered one of the chicken nest boxes that had a chicken egg in it whilst we were on vacation and did not follow through with taking care of it properly.) I kept the chick in the house for about a week in a box under a heat lamp. It was lonely and cried. Raising one orphan chick all by itself seemed an even sadder thought the more it chirped in that box for the mother it never had. Then I had an idea. What if Greta would take it? I grabbed the chirping chick and headed outside.
Greta was under a blackberry bush with her two chicks. Her little ones were by this point almost twice the size of my tiny orphan peanut. I had never asked a chicken to adopt before so this was a first for both me and Greta. I knelt down close as she eyed me suspiciously. I showed her the chick in my hand and then set it down and backed away. I really didn't expect her to take it. She hadn't hatched it after all and it was clearly younger than her two. She looked at me, then looked at the chick, taking in the whole scene. The chick was confused in the unfamiliar surroundings of the sunlight and the grass and simply stood there continuing to holler. After sizing up the situation for all of about 15 seconds, Greta clucked softly and walked up to the little guy. She stood over him and clucked again, looking me right in the eye. It felt as if she were telling me, "I'll take it from here."
I watched for a few more minutes in awe as the story unfolded before me. The little chick was scared. He didn't know where he was and he didn't know anybody. He didn't know to follow her. He'd never had a mother before. She had to spend some time talking softly to him, convincing him that she would take care of him. After she had lovingly invited him to join her little brood, she still had to teach him to follow her, having to come back after him several times.
It probably took her the rest of the day to get him to fully accept his belonging in his new family. We checked on them a few times after the initial meeting and each time he had continued to make great progress. Aside from having to help the little family into the hen house that night, they needed no further assistance from the humans. (Apparently the little guy just couldn't figure out how to follow everyone up the ramp that first night through the door. Greta had given up and decided to camp outside in the grass for the night so as to not leave anyone behind.) Oh yeah, his new siblings accepted him right away as well.
Now you would never know the little chick was adopted, aside from his being just a little smaller. Thank you Greta! You are a great mother hen.
I'm Debbie. I love listening to chickens cackle and sing. I love Lindt chocolate truffles, a good cup of coffee, and a good book.