This past Friday, I glanced out the window at our barnyard and I was puzzled by what I saw. Was that a little brown leaf blowing around that big black hen or was it — chicks?! I hurried outside and there around that hen were seven little chicks — tiny puffs of downy fur scurrying around and staying right close to the mother hen. Four were tan and three were black. They were so tiny I thought they must have hatched that day.
We have had chickens for the 35 years we have have lived on this little “homestead” and I think this is the second time a hen managed to hide her eggs and sit on them until they hatched. Jim has occasionally put eggs under a hen who was in the “wanting to sit mode” (clucks is what we called them on the chicken farm I grew up on), but he hasn’t done that for awhile and we collect all the eggs every day.
The mother hen constantly makes a clucking sound and the little chicks are drawn to that sound like magic. Mother hen scratches in the dirt and the little ones poke their little beaks in the dirt — finding what? Maybe bugs, maybe bits of grain or straw or grass.
Later that day, as it was getting dark, I followed the mother hen as she led her chicks through clumps of grass to a secluded place near a stone wall. The chicks had a little difficulty keeping up with her, but eventually they reached where she had settled down. One by one they disappeared into her feathers. It was a very cold day but the mother hen seemed to know how long she could let the little ones run around before she squatted and they buried themselves in her feathers. At that point I could see no evidence of the chicks. All I could see was a hen sitting on the ground. Later when Jim gathered the hen and chicks to give them a safe place in the barn, he said the chicks were toasty warm.