We live on a hunk of land large enough to support a couple of miniature donkeys and a handful of chickens. We started with a small group of hens and expanded to ten hens and a rooster last Spring. Over the summer, we lost a hen to a mysterious illness and two to the neighbor’s loose dog, leaving us with eight chickens.
Or so we thought. Over the last few months, I kept having this nagging feeling that someone was missing from the coop, but I never could put my finger on just who it might be. I assumed my count was off, or a hawk had invaded, but I was so busy I never gave it much brain power. Except also over the last month, our egg count dropped from 4-6 a day to 1-2 per day. Hubs and I walked the fence over the weekend, making sure there were no gaps, and looking all over to see if the hens, who free-range, were laying eggs elsewhere.
Three days ago, I saw a red hen drinking from the chicken waterer. By the time I got down there, she was gone. I figured we had a renegade visitor in the neighborhood and blew it off. Yesterday, I saw her again. Having just finished a shower, I threw on a nightgown and my rubber boots. (I am nothing if not wise in the ways of barn-boho-chic.) I ran down to the barn, and found the Hen I’d Forgotten, sweet Aunt Jemima.
Aunt Jemima, however, was anything but sweet. She was puffed up and loud, and I knew right away I had a broody hen on my hands. Broody means she wants to raise some babies, and will try and eat your face if you try and stop her. I couldn’t imagine where she’d found place fro make a nest, and so I watched her for a while, but all she did was squawk and prance around, trying to distract me from looking for her clutch of eggs.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spied Ruth, who is pretty much the best dog in the world. She was nosing something around by the back of the barn. I walked over there, and discovered a pile of about two dozen eggs!!! Finally, I discovered where all the eggs were going. The Ladies were laying eggs back there, and Aunt Jemima was babysitting! The area she’s found to raise her babies is a tiny hole behind the barn and a pile of old bricks. (She didn’t think this thing through very well, though, because a mess of baby chicks is going to fill that space in a hurry.)
Speaking of baby chicks, I realized I have another problem. Aunt Jemima is sitting on two dozen fertilized eggs. Instead of having a missing hen, I just found a whole lot more. So, we are on egg watch on our little farm, waiting for the peepers to come out, and then I suppose I’m going to need to figure out what to do with them. Luckily, I have friends and family that I think will take them off our hands, and we can keep a few.
I’m glad I found Jemima, even thought I wasn’t quite sure she was missing, and I’m glad my other hens are still laying for us, and don’t have to hit the stewpot and be replaced. Sometimes I think it’s only at my house that stuff like this happens. Where else does a chicken go covertly missing, and when you find her she’s collecting children like The Old Woman in the Shoe? I suppose I’m the last person to judge, filling our home with children the way I do.