October 4, 2012 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Miss Chicken ensures warm feelings

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A little frost in the air, leaves taking on color, deer eating my flowers – the seasons are turning. And this, naturally, brings me to eggs and chickens. No, really.

The Spokane County Interstate Fair concluded not long ago, after which I received some happy poultry news. I’ve been feeling a little blue of late, so tales of my favorite farm girls – Miss Chicken and her progeny – lifted my spirits a bit.

Miss Chicken, for those of you who haven’t been following her story, is a feral chicken of uncertain heritage who appeared in our yard one December day a few years ago. She hung around for a year, allowed us to feed her (insisted on it, actually), maintained her distance and independence and delighted us with her antics. Fearing for her long-term survival (there are coyotes in our neck of the woods), we went through some elaborate shenanigans to corral her and relocated her to a lovely home for wayward chickens in Spokane Valley.

Since that time Miss Chicken’s mom, Joan, has kindly allowed me to visit and keeps me informed in between visits. Last year, our gal went broody and would not be dissuaded, so Joan got two baby aracaunas from the feed store – Miss Sophie and Miss Daisy – and Miss Chicken became a fierce mama, raising them successfully and only weaning them at the last possible minute. When she got broody again this spring, Joan was going to wait her out, as with nearly two dozen chickens to care for, she felt that was quite enough.

So guess who won that one? Back to the feed store for a banty Silkie chick and three banty Mille Fleurs, all of whom are happily being raised by Miss Chicken.

And then came the fair. Joan enters many products from her garden at the fair, and sometimes eggs as well. This year she came home with several ribbons. Now I never knew there even were egg categories (remember, city girl here), but as it turns out there are 10 – and, ta dah, two of the blue ribbons were for eggs from Miss Chicken’s older babies. The dozen from Miss Daisy, a brown aracauna, received a rosette ribbon special award with the blue ribbon in the medium brown egg category, indicating that the eggs were remarkably uniform in size and defect free.

And it turns out that the 12 eggs from Miss Sophie, a white-with-brown-flecks aracauna who lays baby blue eggs, got a blue ribbon for first place and a rosette ribbon for best in class in the aracauna category and – cue the trumpets here – a trophy for best in show. These eggs, Joan said, had a natural sheen to them that was simply gorgeous.

I really have to get out more, as I have no idea what most of this means, except for the fact that it’s a pretty big accomplishment in the poultry world. And as Miss Chicken’s first adoptive mom (I’ve kind of graduated to grandma status now), I feel a kind of pride – misplaced, no doubt, but pride nevertheless. Joan tells me the quality of eggs has more to do with heredity and lack of stress in the chickens’ lives than anything else. Of course, good feed doesn’t hurt either. But in addition to the wonderful care they’ve received from Joan, I am going to declare – with absolutely no credentials or experience whatsoever in farm matters – that Miss Chicken merits a little consideration here, too. Mothers never get enough credit. And that’s my judgment on the matter.

I wondered out loud to Joan about Miss Chicken’s mothering future. I know Joan really doesn’t need any more to handle. She’s got a big garden to tend. Some of the chickens are going through their molt and she’s dealing with two Cochins who are setting. She’ll be able to wait them out, I know, but what if Miss Chicken goes broody again next spring? Joan pauses, but only for a moment. “Well, you know I’ll cave in,” Joan said. “Many times I’ve had to mother a chicken so she’d mother her babies, but that’s never been the case with Miss Chicken. She is undoubtedly one of the best mothers I’ve ever seen.”

So as we move into fall, Miss Chicken is taking care of her newest brood, and doing her usual fine job. Our gal gathers her chicks in the pen at night and stays on high alert with them during the day. All of the babies – Millie, Mollie, Maggie and Mallory – often take dust baths together with her. One change that is apparent as the little family grows is that Millie and Mollie are going to have to be renamed – looks like they’re going to be Millard and Mikey. Oh well.

All in all, life is good in the farm yard, and that makes me feel good.

Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at upwindsailor@comcast. net.

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