Photo by Carol Ann Sayle
I never thought my most favorite hen, Tootie J. Tootums possessed any maternal instincts. Probably bred out of her. Same for her twin, Hoppy J. Tootums. They are "Black Sex Link" hens, but as I consider the situation, it should be noted that both the Tootums sisters are more than slightly "allergic" to the romantic intentions of Rusty Roo, the Rooster. They are not desirous of a "link up." They've never "gone broody." No chicks were ever wanted. Until now.
One evening, after a tiring day in the field, I rested on the post oak bench in front of the Hen House to watch a little "chicken TV" and witnessed the first revelation of nascent "mothering." Hoppy J. Tootums gave up her long-time sleeping spot on the ground in the corner of the Hen House--a spot as close as she could get to the perches on high, which she, with only one usable leg, is not strong enough to access--to a few of the adolescent hens who also preferred her corner to the perches. Furthermore, they tried to soak into her feathered sides for the night. She pecked them lightly, sending them a foot away from her. Then to quiet their sad peeping, the typically always silent hen murmured something sweet and calming; instantly the chicks settled down, cozy with each other, but near her. She continued the lullabies and then, like any mother would do, she let her tunes trail off softly, as the chicks fell into slumber. Three feet above them, the other 75 chicks cocked their fuzzy ears to the lullaby until they too dozed.