I am pleased to report that life is good in Miss Chicken’s world.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated the doings in the hen house and yard where my former feral rescue chicken has resided going on three years now. As many people know, she is the chicken of undetermined origin who appeared in my driveway on a cold December day in 2009, was uncatchable for nearly a year, slept wherever she wished in the neighborhood and was fed by my neighbor Marilyn and me. After almost a year of evading cats and coyotes, winter weather and who knows what, we were finally able to trap her (with considerable effort) and relocate her to the home for wayward chickens of Joan and Jim Nolan in Spokane Valley – where she has pretty much ruled the roost, in all senses of the word, ever since.
Right now she looks pretty awful. Though quite healthy she is undergoing a molt and looks like she came out on the losing end of a fight with a weed whacker. She still doesn’t like being picked up very much, but will tolerate Joan’s handling – especially if there’s some cut-up cucumber as a reward for the indignity of having to be touched by humans. Miss C remains quite the diva.
I had expected her to be in mommy-mode when I saw her at the beginning of the summer, as she was the past two summers. For the last couple of springs she took to the setting box, as chickens will do, but, unlike most chickens, she would not give up as time passed. Soft-hearted Joan gave in each time, went to the feed store and purchased a couple of day-old chicks, put them under our gal at night – and sure enough, the next morning they were happily accepted and a new family formed.
I say happily accepted because Miss Chicken has proven to be a devoted and attentive mother. But, in fact, she never looks happy. True, chickens don’t smile, but some have calm or pleasant faces. Miss Chicken always looks mad, with a kind of belligerent “What do you want?” stare, even when chowing down on her favorite munchies.
But because she’s molting and not laying eggs for the duration, the mama genes are in neutral. Joan says she wouldn’t be surprised at all if later this summer, Miss Chicken comes back to form and goes beak to nose with Joan over whether there will be babies.
Joan’s flock – mostly made up of rescue birds – has numbered into the mid-20s but is now down to 14, a comfortable number. Spot, an all-white Silkie, died over the winter at the very old age of 11. Some others have been resettled into new homes. Two of last summer’s babies, Millie and Molly, turned out to be Millard and Mikey – and the dustups in the hen house as a result destroyed the normal tranquility of the yard. They moved elsewhere, as did last year’s baby Mallory, who turned out to be a bully who took on everyone in her path. She went to live with one of her brothers.
Joan also took in an injured chicken this winter from a woman in Cheney. Two bones on one leg were misaligned, so Joan managed to slip the bones and tendon back in place, and to keep them aligned, she wrapped the leg. The bird, named Woodie 2 because she sounded like Woody Woodpecker, managed to get around gimpily after a short adjustment period and it looked like a solution had been found. However, the situation deteriorated and Joan had to have her humanely put to sleep.
But mostly, there’s good news. Miss Chicken’s first babies (summer of 2011), Americaunas Miss Sophie and Miss Daisy, remain well. Of the four babies Miss Chicken raised last year, the one who remains in the yard, Maggie, is the one thought least likely to even survive, no less thrive. When Joan purchased the other three chicks, she saw one Mille Fleur leaning listlessly against the side of the brooder, surely a doomed chick. She thought that just as Miss Chicken has been given a chance to live by being resettled in a new home, perhaps this chick would thrive with Miss Chicken as a mama, so Joan decided to take a chance.
At the feed store, she was advised against it. That chick was about to be a goner. Still, Joan paid just $1 and brought her home with the others. And happily, but not unexpectedly, Miss Chicken fussed over that baby and saw to it she got to the feed, was kept warm by her body and was carefully watched out for.
“We have a wonderful, contented flock right now,” Joan said. “No special needs chickens to care for and everyone getting along well. Miss Chicken has a new best friend, Josie, a Rhode Island Red, a rescue we took in a year ago. They sleep side by side at night.”
Currently $1 Maggie has taken to setting. Joan is determined to outlast her, as she is reluctant to disturb the peace in the yard by bringing in babies. She can probably prevail over Maggie. Still, if Miss Chicken gets broody as the summer wears on – well, we know who’s going to win that one.