We have one chicken that is incredibly dedicated to her biological imperative. Multiple times a year she disappears into the barn and tries to create a secret nest. The first year she did it, she would pop back and forth from the chicken yard so that we weren’t too confident anything was going on. That is, until one day when we observed her demented behavior in the chicken yard: wings flared, pecking any chicken that got close. Upon closer inspection, there was a single chick being protected by her wings. Fast forward about five months. She disappears again, but this time we knew what to look for. After a brief search, we found her, placidly sitting on her nest. We checked her every morning and night until one day she was up and looking hungry, along with two fluffy chicks.
When she disappeared again in late June, we were resigned to letting her do what she needed to do. After a short search, we found where she had set up shop. We checked on her during morning and evening chores, but otherwise just let her do her thing. After catching her in the chicken yard frantically eating and drinking last week, we decided to put a small dish of food and water near her for the final days.
The chicks started hatching on Wednesday, and by noon on Thursday there were seven.
When it started storming on Thursday night, we had to get all of our new fluffy friends into a more protected location. Using a towel, a helper, and the ever-useful prodding stick, we were able to move all nine of the hatched chicks and the hen into their new brooding pen. The final three eggs, two of which were peeping, I carried through the rain and set them up in the incubator. They were only too excited to join the world outside of the shell.
The next morning, we brought the incubated chicks back to see if mama would accept them. We carefully placed them near the door of the pen. They were peeping wildly, and she immediately took notice. Agitated, she clucked over to them with the other chicks trailing her. The two new chicks got caught up in the fluffy whirlwind, which then returned to the warmth and safety of their mother’s wings. It seemed that integration had gone smoothly.
After this ordeal, I’m hoping she waits at least another year before she decides to hatch again.