About two years ago, we went to a local farm swap to see what that was like.
While it was kinda creepy–mainly a bunch of folks selling animals out of the back of their vehicles–there were also some very nice people there selling animals they clearly cared for.
We gravitated toward the healthy-looking creatures (both human and animal) and ended up taking home two Bantam Splash Cochin chicks and one Dutch bunny.
By the time we arrived home, the chicks had been named “Huck and Molly,” interchangeable since their genders were impossible to determine, and the bunny had been christened “Cookie.”
That was two years ago.
Since that day, a lot has happened.
Cookie lived a happy, albeit brief, existence filled with food, garden excursions, rampant burrowing, and frequent snuggles from human children.
Huck and Molly moved together like a little, old couple all over the farm. They ate together and roosted together and, by all appearances, seemed quite happy together.
And then, Molly went broody.
It was bound to happen. She’s a Cochin, after all, and Cochins are known for being good chicken mamas.
So, Molly ditched Huck like a bad habit and started to sit a few eggs.
Three weeks later, only one of the eggs had hatched, but Molly was undaunted.
That little chick was her pride and joy and nothing in the world was going to get in their way.
She cared for that chick as well as any chicken mama could, teaching it how to peck and scratch, protecting it from the larger, bullying chickens, and snuggling with it on the roost each night.
Eventually, Huck was welcomed into the fold and the little family of three made their way around the farm each day, cuddling up together at night, and all was right with the world.
Once it was old enough, Molly grew apart from her chick and let it fend for itself. This was all part of her being a good mama–part of the natural order of things.
She separated herself and, within a few days of the separation, went back to laying eggs and hanging out with only Huck.
And then, one day, the chick (now, a pullet, really) was gone. Undoubtedly eaten by a fox or a hawk.
It wasn’t clear whether Molly was emotionally affected by this unexpected occurrence as chickens tend to be fairly poker-faced, but it was a drag regardless.
Then, several months later, Huck disappeared.
Now, this one was a particularly difficult loss for all of us. We’d really become attached to Huck over the year and a half or so that he lived here. He was a nice guy. We worried how Molly would fare all on her own.
Sure, we have dozens of other chickens but, the fact is, chickens are picky about their associates. They don’t simply hang with whoever happens to be around. No, Molly was certainly on her own for the foreseeable future.
She made it through the autumn, winter, spring, and most of the following summer like a champ. She allied herself with no one, but seemingly had no enemies either. She laid her occasional eggs, avoided conflict, ran from roosters, and passed her days pleasantly enough.
Then, she went broody again.
Three weeks later, she again hatched a single chick. This is notable since every single one of our eggs is fertile and every other sitting hen has hatched every egg upon which she sat.
Apparently, Molly does this Molly’s way.
This chick was clearly and immediately the love of Molly’s life.
She doted and taught; she hovered and snuggled.
The chick grew and thrived and quickly rivaled Molly in size. Bantams, after all, are roughly half the size of a regular chicken; since the egg she hatched was not her own, the chick hatching from it was certain to be not-Bantam.
And now the chick is clearly a cockerel, to say nothing of the fact that he is also clearly big enough to be on his own.
But that doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen anytime soon.
Whether Molly just needs to hold on a bit longer or if she’s hoping to replace Huck with a new man altogether remains to be seen. What is clear is that she’s definitely found a way to be a little warmer on her roost this winter.