My mother’s feral chicken went broody, so mom let the chicken sit on a handful of eggs for a few weeks. No luck (no rooster) but the chicken was still sitting. Most people would remove chicken from nest, and tell her to get over it. No, mom mail orders chicks. (And even our dysfunctional post office want rid of the box of peeping chicks enough to make sure they are handed over promptly!) Can you get a broody hen to adopt already hatched chicks? Yes, at night, in the dark. Wearing leather gloves, insert chick under mama. No lights. You can do this several nights in a row, even, and then you’ll have yourself a mama hen and five baby chicks.
It’s all fine and dandy until you go to clean out their nest, aka dog crate. Chicks moved into cardboard box, easy enough, albeit mama-less chicks are noisy. Feral chicken removed to the barn floor, also fairly simple. But then angry black chicken begins to peck at chicks. Aghhh… so I move the chicks in their cardboard box outside, throwing a couple of boards across the top to discourage the goats from investigating too much. All right, I think, back to mucking and scrubbing.
Much ado later, I discover two utterly mystified goats peering around the corner into their stall, half-afraid to enter. Based on their reaction, you’d think it was something that warranted serious caution. No– it’s just one feral chicken nesting under their hay rack with two week-old chicks that had enough oomph to fly out of their cardboard box. I tell the goats to keep the other chickens out, and head back toward the task of cleaning only to see another yelping little chick fly haphazardly out of the cardboard box and make a mad dash along the barn wall toward feral chicken, sending the goats skittering out of the way.
Now we get to the fun part– returning all five chicks, who can fit under or through the walls inside the barn, to their cleaned dog crate. Like a sensible person, I bribed the full grown chickens to be elsewhere via a cup of chicken feed. Catching the feral mama chicken isn’t too bad, but the noise level ratchets up a few decibels as the now motherless chicks express their distress and start racing around looking for her. Zoom! Ok, fetch the two in the box first. Easy as pie. Zoom! Zoom! Gotcha, into the crate you go. Argh… and one just jumped out of the chicken coop! Finally, after circling and herding and pouncing, there are five chicks and the appropriate adult chicken in the coop with a clean dog crate for their nesting pleasure. My chicken-catching skills definitely rate a journeyman rank after this week of chicken-sitting.
Guess what else? I got bit by a chicken (not pecked, bit). She opened up her beak, inserted my finger, and chomped down. And yes, I dropped the grain. But she’s a good layer. Who knew chickens could bite?
Final chicken note: if you end up with a cold, wet chicken, all you have to drop is wrap it up in a towel and set it down on a hot water bottle for 5-10 minutes and you’ll have yourself a revived chicken. By the way, chickens don’t like thunderstorms.
Above: Five of the chicks that arrived in the box, although some of those five went off to other homes and others not pictured are under the feral chicken.