Oh what a difference a month makes: the baby chicks are almost teenagers! While we were away, Edith and Willa grew from this:
Last week, Bella signaled the beginning of the end of motherhood by departing from her nightly nesting spot on the coop floor and marching the chicks up the ladder to the counter top. Sweet little tableau, isn’t it?
Enjoy it while it lasts, little ones. Because it won’t.
Bella still currently allows them to snuggle beneath her for sleeping, but from past experience, I can tell you the clock is ticking, ominously. In a few weeks, she will hop up to a roost bar on her own at night and pretend she doesn’t know them. If they persist, she will go all Mommie Dearest and peck at them until they retreat to a corner by themselves.
Or at least that’s how it has always gone before.
We have a new wrinkle, however! Just as Bella is beginning to tire of motherhood, it turns out someone else is waiting in the “wings”, so to speak.
There is a signature cluck that a mother hen makes to her chicks, low and insistent, calling them close to her when she finds a delectable morsel to share. When I heard that cluck yesterday and turned to look, I was surprised to see that the mother hen in question was not Bella, but June!
June is a funny one. Also raised by Bella, she was a singleton, and “only children” do not fare so well in a flock. With no siblings to provide safety in numbers, June was skittish and fearful and never quite found her way in the group. She has remained practically shunned, at the bottom of the pecking order.
June went broody in January but I doubted, given her low flock status, that she could defend chicks, so decided she would have to remain childless. Or so I thought at the time.
I’d noticed in these past few weeks that she was keeping especially close to Bella and the chicks, but now it has become clear that she’s assumed the role of “Auntie”. And Bella seems fine with it. I guess it takes a village…
I’ve heard that non-broody hens can sometimes take to mothering but I’ve never seen it happen in my own flock. There’s always something to learn about keeping chickens…
We’ll see where this goes but I’m hoping for the best – little June, happy at last!