Adventures of the Yellow School Bus | "The Mother Hen" | Text and 3 Photos, 1 Video by Candice Granger

Day old baby chick with her proud and protective mother
I thought I would be writing an article about homemade pizzas this week but yesterday we had our first baby chick born on our place and thought the pizza recipes could wait another week or two. Some of you might have read my previous article about my love for chickens (that was typed in a sarcastic tone) and all of their wonderful characteristics (more sarcasm) but after witnessing this chicken sit on these eggs for 21 days and seeing the devotion in her eyes (maybe not devotion more like you touch these eggs and I will peck your eyes out) was touching for me. I feel like I needed to add "chicken motherly instincts" to the Pro side of the ever evolving Chicken Pros and Cons List.

So, as I said before, a chicken must sit on her fertile eggs for at least 21 days.  In those 21 days, I saw our chicken off of her eggs maybe three times.  She didn't come eat when the chickens were called twice a day for their scratch rations nor did she jump off and hightail it towards Lena Marie when she brought kitchen scraps out into the yard.  Nope, she withstood the temptation.  She sat there and sat there and sat there with some crazy force holding her to those eggs.  It's unbelievable that an animal who isn't smart enough to fly over the fence instead of through it can still have enough sense to follow her instincts and produce an offspring.  How does she know that if she sits there long enough those eggs will hatch  into what she has been waiting for her whole life for - a baby!  Mother nature is simply amazing.

Lena Marie (my daughter) has also been waiting her whole life for that chicken to have a baby chick.  Ever since those two roosters showed up, Lena Marie has been waiting patiently for a broody hen to hatch a clutch of chicks.  Well, yesterday that sweet little girl got her wish.  As I was feeding goats in the dark (thanks to the stupid time change), I heard "cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep" coming from the nesting boxes.  I stopped, listened closely, there it was again!  Cheep, cheep, cheep!  The sweet sound of fluffy a chick!  I called to Lena Marie, asked her to listen closely and as she heard the chirping sounds of that baby - her eyes lit up! "Fluffer is here! Fluffer is here!" she yelled as she jumped up and down.  I looked at her oddly and asked, "You already had the name picked out?"  Wide eyed she nodded her head vigorously.  Little girls, little girls.

So I had my reservations.  This momma chicken was the same chicken that would attack our adult goats, day old baby goats, our kids and our dogs.  She seemed to have zero compassion in her little bird bones.  When we heard those first cheeps coming from the nesting box my thoughts were if that fierce momma chicken was going to allow this little baby chick to hang with her or if she would abandon the chick or, worse, gobble her up!  (I've seen chickens eat other chickens before!)  We wanted to make sure all was okay with the baby chick and the mom, so we stuck our hands in the nesting box only to receive some hard pecks at our hands and some very opinionated sounds from the hen.  We all knew we were not welcome that close to her.  As the chick moved about we saw the mom deliver some life threatening pecks to her little chick head.  OMG.  What the heck was I going to do?  I shoved the baby chick under the mom chicken and hoped that those pecks were intended for us and not the chick.  She seemed to settle down when we left and I knew the best place for the chick was with her warm mom as opposed to in a box by herself under a heat lamp in the studio.  It is so hard not to interfere with nature around here!  I really wanted to "rescue" that chicken but I knew, deep down, that chickens hostility towards us was just her motherly instincts and probably wasn't intended towards her newborn.  I was reminded to not mess with a mom and her chick - especially a crazy mom and her newborn!  As we all walked back into the bus (well, Lena Marie was hopping), I turned and shined the flashlight on the chicken to see a rather content almost smile on her little bird face.  She was happy that her little chick was safe under fluffiness.  At that moment, I felt a strong bond between chicken mom and me.  I caught up with the family and started thinking about all the parallels in that chicken's life and mine.

Jim Bob (my husband) built us a cool chicken hut for the
baby chick and the mother hen.
A chicken will defend her baby chicks to the death.  Here is a quick video on YouTube of a mother chicken defending her babies against a hawk.  You don't really see the outcome but you do see that mother calling her chicks in and heading back out against that hawk despite her own dangers.  That's what any mother would do.  We set danger aside and and immediately think of what is best for our kids.  We try our best to shelter our children from the dangers around us.  Even now, when the kids meet a stranger they are quick to stand right behind me.  I guess they too have an instinct that says, "Mom will protect me from danger!"  Check out this sweet video of these chicks hiding behind their mother.  I totally feel like that chicken when our kids are scared of something.  When we were at the scary mansion at Disney World, I thought the kids were going to climb inside my shirt and poke their heads out of my arm holes!  They were just like those baby chicks.

So this morning, we got up and transferred the momma chicken, the baby chick and the unhatched eggs to a little chicken hut in the backyard.  The momma chicken needs to show the chick how to eat, what to eat and drink and then return to her nest to keep the chick warm.  She couldn't do that when she was up in the nesting boxes.  Those are too high off the ground for the baby chick to follow momma back in and we thought being in a fenced in area will also help keep the baby chick from being a chicken nugget snack for one of our big dogs around here.  (Yes, that too has happened before.)  A bit later the mother chick already had the baby chick out and about in the back.  She would take a step and the baby would take step.  She would chirp, chirp, chirp and the baby would cheep, cheep, cheep.  They obviously had a deep conversation happening between the two of them.  This quickly reminded me of when Lena Marie was two-ish and learning how to talk.  I could clearly understand her but that was only because we spent every moment of every day together.  I knew what she was saying because I kind of knew what she was thinking but when she would talk to other folks they would look at me like something was wrong with her.  I spent my first few years of motherhood being a Lena Marie translator.  I could often have a conversation with Lena Marie without her saying very much.  I found this video, which I thought was subject appropriate, of Lena Marie and me having a normal conversation.  I love this one.

Sweet baby chick is watching her momma.
We watched the momma chicken call her chick over when she found a tasty bit to eat.  The chicken would pick up her snack and drop it in front of the chick to show her what she should be eating and then the hen would eat a little something and move on.  The chick was then right beside her mother eating exactly what the hen was eating - almost out of her mouth.  Ha!  Another similarity.  To this day, Jim Bob thinks that he should make me a plate three times the size of my own so that it could hold all three of our meals (mine, Lena's and Zeb's) because NO MATTER what is on their plate they ALWAYS want what is on mine - even if I have the exact thing they are eating. I think this might go back to the cave men days when kids would only eat what their moms would eat out of fear of eating the wrong thing, like a poisonous berry that would kill them!  Lena Marie and Zeb do not have that threat so I usually just smack their grubby little hands and say, "Back off!  I've got to eat if you want me to make you breakfast in the morning!  Mom's need nutrition too!"  Nah, I don't do that.  I dream of doing that but I usually just sigh and hand over my last cheesy lasagna bite that I had been saving until the end. Sigh.  Kids.

When the chick would cheep! cheep! cheep! a bit loud or sounded stressed the chicken momma would bolt over to her!  Not just wander over to see what was up but BOLT.  She went straight to the chick and clucked away, asking what was the matter and if she was okay....I know you know that sounds very familiar and can think of so many stories of how just the sound of your child's voice can tell you exactly what happened.  I can identify most of our kids' cries and know if there will be blood or no blood before I even get close to the scene of the accident.  Adrenaline shoots through my veins when Zeb cries a specific way because I know I will see a gash or something horrid sticking out of his skin.  Boys.

I better wrap this article up if I want you guys to read another!  But here is my last thought on chicken momma's:  A chicken is instinctual, protective, devoted and will sacrifice her food and life for her young. No wonder throughout our culture when we look for an animal to represent maternal care and love we look no further than the mother hen.  It's quite fitting.  If anyone ever wants to compare me to a chicken, I will take that as compliment.

P.S.  I still don't recommend chickens to everyone.

Candice Granger and her super cute brood call home (and art studio!) to a 16+ acre homestead in Gonzales County. They live in a converted yellow school bus with a large cast of furry characters including sheep, goats, chickens and 1 sassy donkey named Choncho. Candice focuses her many talents towards 'healthy and homemade.' Candice is an artist, home-schooling teacher & mother, and partner to her potter husband Jim Bob.

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