A Loner Hen Makes a Secret Nest

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Photo by Carol Ann Sayle


Ping Ping, a tiny Silver-laced Banty hen, came to us as an immigrant, with her friend, Ming Ming, a Silver-laced giant of a hen. The two hens are the smallest and the largest of all the hens in our Hen House. Real oddballs.

From the start, Ping Ping didn't want much to do with any other chicken or human on the farm. She figured out a million ways to get out of the hens' run, but no way to get back in. That required my assistance, as a gate had to be opened. Of course, if I was anywhere around the open gate, she would not dare to pass through it. So I had to pretend to be heading elsewhere so that she could enter unmolested.

A week or so ago, she disappeared for a few days and then showed up again all puffy and grumpy. Just like a hen incubating eggs. She'd stayed as long on her hidden nest as she could, without water or food, and so, after she drank from the poopy water in the bird bath favored by the grackles, she saw me and actually came when I called her. I knew that she needed something to eat and that desire made her agreeable to my sharing her geography in regards to the Hen House gate.

The temperatures in the metal barn soar every afternoon, but Ping Ping cares not. She is working, silently, to hatch out what surely will be several roosters in a couple of weeks.

In she went, directly to the feed pans. Pecking away, she suddenly took umbrage, first to the father of her intended offspring, the giant (to her) Rusty Roo the Rooster, then to her friend, Ming Ming! Hatefully Ping Ping attacked Ming Ming and soon they were hopping up in the air in a hen fight worthy of a velvet painting. Before they tired, the Sergeant, an old hen with spurs, a big red comb and two blue rooster tail feathers, came over--so her mentor Rusty Roo wouldn't have to--and got between the combatants to end the fight.

Not finished, Ping Ping took on the Sergeant, who expressed great surprise at the ferocity of the little banty-weight attacker. In a surprise move, probably tiring, Ping Ping dashed through Sergeant's legs and exited the Hen House and its run through her known-only-to-her (and now to me as I sleuthed after her) exit.

Once outside, and satiated with water and feed for another day, Ping Ping entered the fertilizer barn, where junk dwells as well as real farm accoutrements, hopped up on a couple of buckets, flew to shelves on high and made her way over various unneeded remnants of our past lives to her crowded space behind a little old fan.

It would be nice if the fan worked, as the temperatures in the metal barn soar every afternoon, but Ping Ping cares not. She is working, silently, to hatch out what surely will be several little or giant roosters in a couple of weeks. That is, if she and Rusty Roo really did have "relations." I just can't imagine it, but of course, it's Rusty Roo's duty to not discriminate based on size....

But how will the wee chicks get down to the floor? The "nest" is seven feet or so up there. I'm contemplating this dilemma and spot an old sheet. Aha, I'll make a slide of the sheet so they can jump on it and tumble down to Ping Ping, who will certainly urge them on.

No use worrying about all of that of course, as I've yet to even see the eggs. And if Rusty Roo was not interested, then the worry will be over Ping Ping's sense of failure and disappointment ... all that hot sitting for nothing. But at least then we won't have to figure out what to do with miniature roosters.

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Carol Ann Sayle is co-founder and co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, a five-acre urban, organic farm in Austin, Texas.

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