ALL POULTRY keepers know that their chickens are capable of forming strong bonds with each other. Many chickens have one or two particular friends, and every flock consists of several of these groups. Sometimes these bonds are between a group of brood mates, sometimes they are between a cockerel and his favourite hens. But I recently became aware of one very unusual example between a hen and her chick.
I have written before about how, for various reasons, a hen can end up rearing a single chick. This is what happened to Tufty, an Ameraucana/Black Copper Marans cross. Tufty dutifully reared her single chick until it was ready to make its own way in the flock.
As sometimes happens, however, her chick (which we called Bigtail) wasn’t at all impressed with the idea of an independent life and decided instead to stick with mum. Usually the mother hen drives the chick away after a time, but for some reason Tufty seemed quite happy to be accompanied at all times by Bigtail, even after she was fully grown.
Eventually, Tufty began laying again and as the weather grew warmer, Tufty went broody. At this time, Bigtail went missing. I looked everywhere for her and reluctantly concluded that, without Tufty looking out for her, Bigtail had wandered off and had been taken by a fox.
A few days later, though, Tufty emerged from her nest to feed and, to my surprise, there was Bigtail with her as usual. Bigtail had been sitting in the nest with Tufty. While it is not unusual for two birds to try and go broody in the same nestbox at the same time, I have never known a nonbroody hen to share a nestbox with her broody friend. This was definitely what Bigtail was doing. When Tufty returned to