In recent times, we've discussed eggs not being where they are expected or supposed to be. Also mentioned were hens that liked to lay 'outside of the box.' This can be troubling if you do not intend to hatch eggs and sometimes those eggs laid elsewhere do wind up hatched. This could lead to extra flock members you for which you weren't planning or prepared as well as babies from an unintended cross. Either way, chickens have a way of surprising us sometimes.
A few years back, we had a beautiful Japanese Bantam hen. She caught my eye the moment I saw her and I knew right then that she would be coming home. Well, folks, let me tell you right now that looks are not everything. Personality goes a long way, and this little hen was far from friendly. It was never really clear why she was the way she was, but it was very clear that she did not much care for us humans. She was allowed to come and go as she pleased, free ranging during the day, and one day she did not come back from her outdoor adventures.
Despite many search efforts, our little hen could not be found. After a couple weeks of failed attempts at searching and calling her back home, we figured she was a victim of predation. Of all the chickens on the place, she was the last one you would expect to get picked off, but what other explanation was there? Babies, that's what.
Out of the blue one day, our little Bantam friend showed back up with five little chicks in tow. To say I was surprised was an understatement. I was not prepared for chicks and suddenly I had five. Or at least I thought I had five. If you asked Mama Bantam, she had five and I would pay with my life if I dared come near. Never one to be a good listener, however, I took to catching her chicks and putting them in a safe place. With the raccoon and fox problems we've had, they were not safe in the great outdoors, so despite Mama Bantam's protests, I rounded those babies up and got them to a safe place. By the way, if you've never tried to catch chicks with an angry mother hen present, it is not easy. Not only was she willing to defend them with her life, she also called in the reinforcements and soon I had the rooster and other hens in combat mode as well. The power of a unified flock is an amazing thing.
Our mixed breed babies grew up to be something quite interesting being that they were out of a Japanese Bantam hen and a Rhode Island Red rooster. They were small but regal in their own way, with one of the cockerels going on to replace the Rhode Island Red when he passed. The Bantam, too, passed, a shocking victim of predation in the end, and the chicks she raised were soon all that remained of this surprise pairing.
Since it is spring and chicks are everywhere, I wanted to take a moment to remind you that chicks may also be in unexpected places! If you have what seems to be a missing hen, she may not be missing at all but could instead be working on bringing some chicks back to you. In such a case, may all your surprises be healthy and welcomed graciously into the open wings of your flock!