How Gladys the Hen Became a Mother (Part 1)

[Before I begin what will be a thrilling tale (and it is, I assure you!), two wee small housekeeping bits....

1. I meant to mention it Friday, but I had a guest post up on Little Homestead in the Desert last week as part of KC's Toddler Art Month.  It's about being silly making music with your kiddo.  The whole series has been really fun, so please do go check it out!

2. I forgot to put an end date on Friday's Isola giveaway...let's say I'll draw a winner tomorrow morning?  On to the story!]

When last we spoke of dear Gladys the hen, she was holed up in her nest box trying her darnedest to hatch our unhatchable eggs.  On Saturday, I had agreed to man an "urban chicken" booth at the Topeka library's green fair.  Thinking it might help to get her out of the house for the afternoon, I took Gladys (and Tori) to exhibit.

Short diversion--I love having the chance to get out and talk about my chickens.  I talked shop with two or three families getting ready to take the backyard chicken plunge, (hopefully) helped convince once just-a-teeny-bit-reluctant husband, and enjoyed answering questions from lots of poultry-curious passer-byers.  It's chicken evangelism, I tell you!

Tori had a wonderful time too, of course--she's a people chicken.  So wonderful, in fact, that she tried to stay.  As I was packing the girls up at the end, Tori bolted out of the fence.  If not for the assistance of a lovely library employee, she might have become a permanent library resident.

Gladys seemed to be perkier than she was at home, but--in handling her and seeing her out in the open--I was dismayed to find that she had plucked away a nice chunk of her own breast feathers.  (That's what mama hens do to keep their eggs warm.)  Nonetheless, I really hoped that a day in the sunshine and grass would convince her that there are better things in life than baby chicks.

Alas, no.  Within five minutes of getting the girls home, Gladys was back in the nest box refusing to come out.  I freely admit to anthropomorphising my chickens, and in this case, it was just too much.  In a split second decision, I told Sweet Husband, "Let's go to the feed store and get poor Glady some babies, right now!"

Although I obviously have no experience in the matter, I had been told that if you slip very young chicks under a broody hen in the middle of the night, she'll wake up thinking she must have hatched them herself and raise them as her own.  While I intended to get more chickens this year, I didn't want to take the time to raise chicks in a brooder so I was going to get some older birds.  (Still probably will, actually.)  But, since Gladys seemed hell-bent on taking care of babies, I figured, why not let her do the work for me?

We ended up having to drive back to Topeka (which is only about a half an hour away) to find a feed store with chicks.  (That is, apparently, a tale in itself--why the Lawrence stores don't have chicks--but one I don't want to tell until I make sure I have my facts straight.)  

An employee with a very reassuring Kansas twang in his voice, asked me if I was looking for laying hens or meat birds.  When I explained that I was looking for chicks to put under my broody hen--and hopefully the chicks would grow up to be layers--he set me up with a black sex-link, a white plymouth, and a sweet little welsummer

Then he explained, "Now, ya know, right, that you wanna go out in the dark and you just pick up your hen and stick the chicks right in under her?"

I nodded earnestly, and asked, "But how will I know if she's going to take them?  At what point should I gather them up and just put them back in the brooder?"

He looked at me worriedly, "Well, if she doesn't want 'em she'll kill 'em."

"So, when I wake up tomorrow morning, they'll either be under her or they'll be dead?"  

I can only imagine that the look on my face must have been horrified, because he quickly reassured me, "What kind of hen do you have?"

"A Maran," I squeaked.

"Oh, she'll be fine then.  Those are good, calm birds.  She'll do just fine."

I paid for my little box of chicks, and rejoined Sweet Husband and the Kid in the car.  Riding home on my lap, the little black one tried to jump out of the box each time I opened the lid to peek in at them.

"Hmm, what should we name them?" I asked Sweet Husband.  After debating it, we settled on three new singer names.  

But then, remembering what the feed store employee had said, I reconsidered, "You know, I don't think we should officially name them until tomorrow morning.  If Glady doesn't murder them, then we can give them names."