Back in June I promised I’d tell the story of my broody hens’ transition to motherhood. But … yeah, I let things slide. It’s my site, after all, and my uber-volunteer world claims most of my spare time. Which is fine by me.
But about the chicks. The babes—six altogether—pipped over a two-day span. One needed help; I was sure after I liberated it from the egg that it was dead, but I tucked it under a mom anyway. The next day I had six fuzzball babies peeping out from under their moms.
Within a couple more days it was clear—one mom claimed five babes while the other got only one. Even so, those turf battles over nest boxes and eggs? Forgotten. In fact, I was struck by how content both seemed. I’m sure it helps that hens just can’t count. Let me go further and anthropomorphize for a moment and suggest that each felt completely validated as a mom regardless how many chicks hung tight with her. (I’m happy to attribute this mostly to their pea-sized brains.)
Even so, I was relieved when, two days later, I propped open the door. The moms and chicks hung together all that day and the next and the next and … such a lovely job of coparenting they did. They didn’t wander with the main flock, but they didn’t avoid them either. (Which probably is why this year, integrating the chicks into the main flock went as smoothly as it did.)
Then came the day the mamas quit. A mom always quits about the time the babes are gangly, half-grown teenagers, just starting to fly (to the extent that a chicken can); about the time you start getting a hunch which are en route to roosterhood and the stew pot. And when mama’s done, she’s done. One day she’s protective. The next she’s out of there. The chicks keep their own little flock together a while longer, but when they start checking out the main coop, I close the door to the rabbit hutch for good. By then the moms treat them like the newbies they are—the moms aren’t mean, exactly, but they don’t cut them any slack either.