Books, Publishing, and the Creative Life

Posts tagged ‘nature stories’

A Mother’s Day Chicken Tale

My last post on Greta the hen and her secret nest brought a flurry of responses to my email box.  People seem to like chickens.  Who knew?

Sebastian wants to know if I eat Greta’s daily egg.  Well, yes.  She doesn’t seem to mind, since she isn’t trying to hatch chicks (and that won’t happen, because a stray dog killed our rooster, Harley, which is another story for a later blog).  The fresh eggs are wonderful fried, poached, or boiled for egg salad.

But Sebastian is an attorney, so I’m beginning to worry.  Will we be slapped with a lawsuit: Greta versus NorLightsPress for Unauthorized Tampering with Nest and Poaching of Eggs?

Diana  says, “In every office there is an old biddy (not necessarily “old” actually) who keeps an eagle eye (chicken eye?) on you because they just know you’re up to something they probably won’t approve of. Greta is the biddy in her “office.” Would love to hear more about “the ladies”!

Ah, yes.  The office biddy.  And let’s not forget the henpecked husband.  Chickens sometimes get a bad rap, but I’m here to fix that issue.  It doesn’t take much encouragement for me to tell more chicken stories, so stay tuned for updates on the hens.

Here’s a story for Mother’s Day

When we lived in Providence, Utah, our neighbor Norman Leonhardt kept over 50 free range chickens he let wander through the neighborhood.  Most of these free spirits slept on the trees in our back yard.  We named them, fed them, and I studied their social life, which was surprisingly intricate and sophisticated.  Raccoons, skunks, foxes, magpies, and stray dogs kept their numbers down, but the industrious hens kept hatching new eggs.

One spring, a white hen appeared with a single chick—a baby she obsessively nurtured and protected until it grew feathers and turned into another white hen just like her. This was a classic case of Failure to Launch: theWhite hen youngster never left home. Mother and daughter spent all their time together, and even the finest rooster on the block couldn’t separate them for long.

Chick The next spring, the two hens produced a clutch of eggs and took turns sitting on the nest. Hidden inside Norman’s equipment shed under an old hay baler, the nest was dry and concealed from predators.  Eventually, the proud mamas showed up outside our door with a single yellow chick. The two hens shared custody, and I’m sure neither of them cared whose egg had hatched. Never has a baby chicken received more care and attention. They clucked and strutted all day long, teaching their chick how to survive.

One the evening before Mother’s Day, I stepped onto the balcony and noticed something unusual in Norman’s hayfield. His water turn had started and a dozen five-foot tall sprinklers were running full tilt. They would water the grass with streams of mountain spring water for twelve hours. Norman’s geese were out there enjoying the water, but all the other livestock had moved away.  Something under one of the sprinklers caught my attention.

“It’s a piece of trash blown off from the road,” I told myself.  But a little voice kept nagging at me.  When the feeling wouldn’t go away, I reluctantly went outside, unlocked the gate, and sloshed through the spray, soaking my clothing and shoes within a few seconds. The cold water stung my cheeks and ran in rivulets down my back. These sprinklers meant business.

I bent over and ran through the worst of it, right to the base of the sprinkler. There I found the two white hens, huddled together and soaked to the skin. They were trembling from the cold and I doubt they would’ve lasted through the night.

I couldn’t understand why they stayed in the water instead of running to safety.

When I scooped a hen under each arm, out popped the yellow chick—dry and safe beneath their bodies. Knowing the water would crush their baby, the hens were willing to sit for hours and possibly die under the sprinkler in order to protect it.  And the two of them stayed together, though one could have done the job alone.

I call this a fine example of mothering, and it’s just one more reason I love chickens–and Mother’s Day.  Mothers day


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