A special element of our life this past year has been our ever-changing flock of free-range chickens.
We were blessed with the original flock (mostly older hens) from friends, and then we added a few new ones, which we raised from baby chicks. Those little pullets are now beautiful, full-grown black-and-white Barred Rocks, who regularly give us eggs each day (but still think I’m Mama).
A couple months ago, one of the original Buff Orphingtons went broody. This big, gorgeously golden mama hen decided to sit on the other hens’ eggs in the nesting box, and displayed her protective mama abilities, pecking at anyone trying to gather eggs. (We don’t have a rooster, so we knew none of the eggs would actually hatch.)
So, one day, a fun trip with Grandpa to the hardware store resulted in bringing home the adventure of new baby chicks once again! Tucked under the broody hen as she dozed at night, she quickly took up her new mothering role!
It was adorable to watch her leading the little ones around (once they grew enough to safely venture around the yard). Our own baby loves to check on the “chick chicks” every day; insisting it is part of his routine!
Unfortunately, living up against forest lands in a rural area, we often have visiting wildlife. Coyotes and neighboring cats often race through the yard looking through lunch (which is why our flock is ever-changing). We have sadly had an older hen or little chicks taken on occasion.
We love having one of the older hens around, who insists on being the “look out.” She patrols around the yard, quickly clucking to let us know if any critters are approaching! She easily spies out any raccoon at the creek or cat creeping around the fence.
At night, after a day of exploring, finding bugs and slugs to munch on, and dusting themselves in dirt under the trees, they cluck their way back up the hill at twilight to their coop. They settle in to roost for the night.