Your Chickens - - Contents - By Michelle Dunn

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

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