Sunday, September 16, 2012

More bandits for Smoky

Since Smoky took so well to the chicks we put under her a couple days ago, I wondered... could we get away with giving her the rest of the chicks we had in the house? I mean, if she's so willing to do the work, let her do it all... right?

We had five chicks left in the brooder box, so I picked the chick who looked the most different from the ones she already had. Bright yellow. Hard to miss.

In the stall, Smoky was giving her babies a lesson in scratching. She'd scratch back some hay, peck at the ground, and cluck excitedly to show her babies how it's done. When I put the yellow chick on the ground, she stared at it briefly. Reminded me of that old Sesame Street song: "One of these things is not like the other..."

...and then she got right back to work, showing her chicks how to scratch.

I wondered if Smoky would show any hostility toward a baby so obviously different than her own. It was clear Smoky knew something was different about this chick.

But it obviously didn't matter to Smoky. A chick was a chick, and she was there to mother it. Within a minute or two, the yellow chick was joining the scratching lesson along with her siblings.

Emboldened by this success, I stuffed the remaining four chicks into a plastic container...

...and brought them out to the stall.

Once again Smoky paused to wonder about these newcomers.

The chicks (after a moment or two of confusion) began mingling right away.

But this one baby stood stock-still for the longest time.

The other chicks explored and scratched and pecked...

...but this little one just acted like a statue.

Sociable chicks...

Solitary chick.

At last the baby unfroze and began cautiously to explore.

She seemed entirely awed by Smoky, and kept staring at her. It was a real "Are you my mother?" moment.

Evidently so. Within minutes, the little one was scratching as happily as the rest, satisfied that she had a mother.

So now Smoky has nine bandits with her.

But what about nighttime? Could nine chicks fit under her feathers and stay warm?

As the sun went down behind smoke-filled hills and dusk fell...

...she settled into her favorite spot, and one by one the chicks pushed underneath her, finding whatever available spot they could.

It amazed me that even the slightly older chicks, raised in the brooder box, knew instinctively what to do.

By nightfall, everyone was bedded down somewhere in Smoky's feathers, cozy and warm.

I shouldn't have questioned Smoky's maternal devotion. Once a hen decides to go broody, nothing can stop her. Broody hens have been known to take care of kittens, puppies, or anything else that will fit under their wings.

A broody hen is a valuable hen. Smoky's maternal instinct has saved her from ever finding a spot in our freezer.


  1. Things like that just put me in awe of G*d's Greater Plan.

  2. I love this! I felt like I was reading a story to my little grandkids. You should publish this as a picture story book. I would buy it in a heartbeat!

    1. What a great idea. I agree with Anonymous here Patrice - this would make a wonderful children's book.

    2. I second the motion. Just tell us when it's out so we can all buy it!


  3. Ahh! Pregnancy tears! I just want to kiss that little mama Smoky (and no that wouldn't be so strange since our own little backyard hens have received loves and kisses from me and my daughter - we are horrible homesteaders in that way - we get far too attached to our poultry).

    So heartwarming. And I agree with the idea to publish a picture book. Actually, I can picture a collection of illustrated books with your animal stories in it something along the lines of these:

    We had a couple books full of James Herriot illustrated stories about rural animals and their adventures that I LOVED as a child.

    1. Just so long as you leave out stories about when Potlatch comes to call! Ha! Those photos are great... just not for a children's picture book. ;-)

  4. My I add my vote to publishing a children's book. What a sweet story of love, acceptance and inclusion.

  5. Patrice - please have these stories published. As all of your fans above have stated, they need to be seen.
    What charming books they would make for children! God has given you a wonderful gift with your writing and photography! Please, seriously think about it!

  6. Smokey is an absolutely gorgeous hen! What kind is she? Also, I've been wondering how your tire garden is doing. Have your potatoes done well? The tire concept is really interesting.


  7. This post has to be one of my favorites. Love how Smokey took to the chicks and so happy the little one finally decide Smokey was alright for a momma. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  8. Ditto here! Story books might be your next horizon.

    I'm having a terrific time reading the story of Smokey and the Bandits.

    Just Me

  9. This is such a fantastic post, in more ways than one.
    Really glad to see that all the chicks have been accepted by the hen.
    I had been under the impression that is was difficult to introduce chicks. Glad to see this is not the case.
    So many people just want eggs and not brood hens. I am hoping to be lucky enough to get both!
    Thanks for sharing this with us. I love your hen's name, and the brood name, too. ;o)

    Have a great week!

  10. That IS my favorite post. Precious mama.

  11. How sweet. Smokey is earning her keep for sure. Nothing beats a good mama.

  12. Others have already suggested this but it was also my immediate thought. Patrice, this would make a darling children's book, along with the photos or illustrations. Put me down for a copy.

  13. That was so sweet. I am down to two hens, only one of which lays now. Both can sit on an egg all day if I allow it. Maybe I could get some chicks and give them to these two eternally broody hens.