It’s no secret among my friends and family that I have a bit of a “thing” for chickens. I absolutely adore them. They’re much brighter than ducks, they form close bonds with each other, they have some wildly funny mannerisms and they provide me with yummy eggs for breakfast. Who could ask for more? We keep a small flock in our back yard (which, as a result, is more a dirt patch than anything resembling a garden) consisting of a rooster, Mortimer, and a flock of ten hens, of varying size and colour. My husband will tell you that I spoil them shamelessly. Ignore him, he’s simply jealous that I cook for them – rice, lentils, oats – and not for him. I also supply them with fresh veggies, fresh fruit, and gratuitous love and affection. Nothing warms the cockles of my cold heart as much as stepping outside, shouting “come, chooks”, and have them all come charging towards me, like a herd of miniature, feathered velociraptors.
You can learn stuff from chickens. You can learn about the simple pleasures of sunbathing. You can learn that, simply by keeping your eyes peeled, even the most innocuous piece of ground can yield yummy treasures. You can learn patience – nothing is as patient as a hen sitting on eggs for 28 days. They don’t even get off to eat! And you can learn about love. A mother hen with her chicks is the very epitome of maternal pride and affection.
Today, I learned that same-sex chickens can also happily rear a baby together.
Most of my flock is part-bantam. Now, anyone who owns Bantams understands that this means two things : 1. Fewer eggs and 2. More babies. The reason for this is that bantams are BROODY. They LOVE to hatch eggs. In fact, many farmers of exotic chickens will keep a couple of bantams around to sit on their exotic eggs, because they have a greater chance of hatching.
About a month ago, I noticed that two of my girls, Daphne and Speckle, were sharing a roosting box. I dind’t think anything of it, and presumed that, shortly, they’d get off and I’d have two gorgeous, warm, yummy eggs. Not so. They didn’t move. So, being the diligent mom I am, I movedthem out of the nest, and removed the eggs.
I did that each day for about a week, until I became busy and forgot – and came back a week later to find them sitting on two eggs, for unknown duration. I elected to leave them to sit.
I kept checking on them, and after about two weeks, one of the eggs disappeared. Where it went to is a mystery, although I have a feeling it is a long-backed, short-legged brindle mystery who goes by the name of Bailey and whom is impossible to keep out of the chickens’ garden. I presumed that one of them would give up and leave the egg to the other. Not so. They both sat. And sat. And sat.
This morning, when I went out, I found the most beautiful little chick, which is going to look JUST like Daphne, being “mother henned” by by Speckle and Daphne. I thought they’d fight over the chick (hens are fiercely protective of their young), but no, they’ve decided the baby is “theirs”. They both mother it, both find it morsels of food, and it seems to enjoy sitting in between them, enjoying the warmth of both their bodies, rather than climbing underneath one or the other.
I’m fairly confident it will grow up a well-adjusted chicken, albeit a very spoilt one, and suspect that it will be a boy (which is a shame, as I’m not sure it will be allowed to stay, if it fights with Daddy). For now, though, it is simply Daphne and Speckle’s baby – raised quite happily by two moms.
As any well-loved baby could be!