Well, Ashley’s babies turned the infamous “6 Weeks” on Sunday. In terms of the flock, they are now old enough to fend for themselves and Ashley can start considering loosening the apron strings and return to doing Hen Things.
There are two ironies in that statement. The first being Ashley’s babies have been, in a matter of speaking, fending for themselves all along. Not one, but two nights spent out of doors huddling together under the barn for warmth and shelter. Having a momma who invariably failed to keep the other chickens from chasing them, whose survival method amounted to “let’s just hide in the cat carrier a little longer, and the big hens will go away.”
Second irony – now that they’re old enough to NOT need her, Ashley is suddenly stepping up her game as a Momma. She’s more protective, attentive, is STILL letting them try to fit under her wings at night (it looks ridiculous!), searches for them if they get separated from her or each other… all the things she wasn’t doing a few short weeks ago.
Not a ‘natural born mother’ like Abby or Claire, but still, it’s somehow managed to grow on her. And she, in turn, has managed to raise her four wee babes up to be young chickens in training. Six weeks old! I honestly did NOT think, given their rocky start with her, that they would make it this far.
Here they are (above) back on November 20th. This is the first time they spent the night up top of the beds rather than in the cat carrier. I’m sure it was getting cramped for the five of them anyway,but at this point, they were still using it as a shelter from the Big Hens in the day time.
However, after a few days, I removed it because it became clear that they weren’t using it to sleep in at night and were ready to join the rest of the flock.
This was, also, the odd point at which Ashley started actually mothering them. It’s like she suddenly realized that “omg! my babies are growing up! I have so little time with them! MUST DO MOMMA THINGS!”
And “do Momma Things” she certainly has! She’s even navigating the waters of sharing the coop with Abby and her wee little chicks without turf wars. It’s been interesting to watch her transition from a hen I wasn’t sure should be a mother into a pretty okay protector. She’s still teaching them foraging, how to seek safety and stuff like that. She’s just much more attentive about it now than she was back in October.
I’m not sure where this leaves me in my previous assessment of her mothering skills. Has her failings as a mother hen been because she is a young hen, not high up in the pecking order and certainly not confident enough to peck at the hens who chased or otherwise went after her babies? She’s gotten better in the last two weeks. Is that because she’s also maturing right along side her babies? Will she be the same way with another set of babies, should she go broody again? Or should I continue to be leery of letting her have eggs?
Certainly humans learn and mature as parents right alongside our children. No one denies us the right to have them based on ‘first time parenting mistakes.’ Is this something I should give the chickened -the benefit of the doubt?
(Ideally, it’s a moot issue unless she goes broody again. Which is possible. Abby’s on her 4th broody and Claire keeps thinking about it,but I keep taking eggs away from her. It’s too cold now for little little chicks.)