Thursday, July 15, 2010

A couple of weeks ago my youngest received his small flock of banty chicks from the hatchery. His plan is to raise these adorable little birds to show at our county fair. Then maybe sell several for backyard layers. (He is an entrepreneur at heart). The banty babies proved to be a challenge to keep alive the first few days home. The fact that NW Montana was experiencing one of it's wettest, coolest springs in recent memory didn't help. In the same box that the banties were shipped, we also received seven "filler" chicks. These chicks were used to keep the banties warm in transit and were labeled "red star roosters". While the banites struggled to survived the next couple of weeks, these little roos did great. They grew fast and fat and at three weeks they were bursting from their small rubber tub. So I introduced them to the rest of the coop. At first they stayed in an unused rabbit cage placed in the floor of the coop. This way they could be in contact with the other mature birds but remain separated until all were acclimated to each other. It also kept them safe from any surprise visits from marauders that might find their way into the coop at night since they weren't roosting in the rafters with the other birds. (We have not had any night time marauders in the coop yet..... domestic dogs not with standing. But you never can tell when a surprise visit might occur. I've heard tales of unsuspecting farmers opening coop doors first thing in the morning to find carnage from coon attacks the night before.)

Anywhoo, I guess it was all the peeping of the little roos that caught the attention of the black broody hen who had so faithfully stayed on her clutch of eggs all these many weeks. Because no sooner had I placed the new little guys in the coop that the broody hen jumped off her nest of unhatched eggs and came right down beside the rabbit hutch. She marched up and down the outside of the cage purring and cooing. When I let the little birds out to see what would happen, she snuggled up to them trying to cover the half grown chicks with her wings. She was convinced that this was her long in coming family. She ran at the other birds who got too close. She bluff charged the red puppy who was only sniffing the new babies. She puffed up and chased the big roosters with warning calls. At first the smaller birds didn't know what to think about this pushy, black hen that was so insistently trying to mother them. But it didn't take long until they were following her around as she demonstrated how to scratch at the soil to unearth small bugs. When she happened on a worm, she called to the family to partake In "the greatness that is worm". At night, when it was time to fly to the rafters for sleep, she made a nest in the floor straw because the little clutch of roosters didn't understand roosting yet. I'm sure she will teach them. It's only a matter of time. She's a wonderful mother to orphaned little boy chickens. Today I found them all huddled up on the floor in the corner of the coop in a small pile taking a nap while their "mother" kept watch. I'm glad they found each other. The little black hen deserves a family for all her patience. The little roos need a mother to teach them how to get along in the community of others. I'm glad we were able to watch the amazing way nature takes care of it's own. I'm happy to know a God that made it all.

Side note: What happened to the nest of eggs that the little black hen was sitting on? Amazingly enough, another hen stepped up and, without complaint, took her place on the nest. Now she is patiently waiting for the eggs to open and give her a new family, too. Will wonders never cease? I hope not......

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