by Heidi Carlson
A few weeks ago, we lost one of our hens. A cute little girl, a Sicilian Buttercup, we think. One night, she just wasn’t there in the coop with the others at “tuck-in” time. It was my husband’s turn to lock them up and he came up short in the head count.
The next day was quieter, and I had more time to watch for her. It didn’t take long to realize that she wasn’t coming out of hiding after the others were let out for the day. She was gone. More questions and speculation: What happened? When? There were no obvious signs of a struggle. But, if a predator attacks at night, would a lone chicken put up a fight? Was she off by herself at some point during the day and picked off by something? The possibilities around here are many: Raccoon, fox, skunk, weasels, even hawks and eagles.
She is such a good mom, too! For days, no one, human or chicken, could get anywhere near them. After some time, though, she started bringing them closer and closer to the rest of the flock. (She still won’t let us too close, though. I still have to zoom in with my camera to get a good shot.) We put out a few peep-sized waterers for them, but she had them up to the full-sized one in only a couple days. We put out some chick starter feed—the stuff “they” tell you you HAVE to feed to peeps, but all the other girls scarfed it up long before the peeps had a chance. “Little Mama,” as we call her (we already had a “Big Mama”), had them scratching and pecking around from the first time we saw them. When I found a bunch of grubs in some old hay bales, I brought one to near where they were while the others were distracted. I tossed it in to Little Mama, and she pecked it in half, eating one half. Sure enough, one of those little peeps got the other half! That crazy-mutant grub was 1/2” fat and this little peep started picking away at it, like she’d died and gone to heaven! I’m already learning more than I knew before about raising peeps by watching Little Mama.