Chicken Generosity

Welsummer, having breakfast

Tuesday, April 06, 2021 (21 days until April’s full “Pink Moon”)

Eleven years ago I plunged and brought home ten day-old baby chickens. For weeks they huddled in my garage, in a large horse watering trough over which hung a heat lamp. Those were my first ever chickens, and I liked them.

A couple weeks later while shopping in a feed store, I came across three unwell baby chicks, separated from other chicks. These were two bantams and a Welsummer, sale priced at fifty cents each. I knew about bantams but nothing about a Welsummer. I inquired, learning it’s a standard breed that originated in the Netherlands. Oh well, might as well try to save three lives.

On the way home, I wondered how to separate safely these tiniest babies from bigger ones in the trough.

I rummaged and found an unused terrarium, set it on a living room side table and added a couple inches of critter layer (a kind tiny beings won’t sink into). The challenge was to rig an essential heat source. I solved that by taping to the terrain a 2×2 stick of tall lumber, to support a hanging a lamp.

In a short time, I had a reason to fall in love with the Welsummer. She was tiny, but bigger than the bantams. (I could set at once on one palm all three chicks.) Almost immediately in the terrarium, each bantam snuggled its way under one of Welsummer’s little wings. She accommodated their need with striking generosity. Then and afterwards, the three slept in a huddle that was smaller than a baseball.

Early on, I lost one of the bantams. The other and Welsummer survived and eventually joined the other chicks. On that first day, when Welsummer singled herself out to me, she had become special.

Now eleven years later, all the chickens except Welsummer have passed away. She still looks good, has appetite, and her behavior is normal. I’ve learned lessons from my domestic chickens. When one aging stops eating, roosts alone in unusual places, and “looks off”, there’s not much help for it. I’ve tried to counteract nature assisted by a knowledgeable veterinarian. I’ve force-fed, force-watered, and kept a hen alive for an extra month or two, but when one’s ready to go, that’s it. Domestic chickens aren’t bred to live much past their active laying years.

I have still a happy hen, and best of all, it’s sweet Welsummer. I figured that when only one hen remained, she’d become my household “inside chicken”. But now in warm spring days Welsummer seems comfortable as always to hang out with my twin goats. She eats eagerly, and aside from Purina feed, receives chopped greens, rice and beans, and handfuls of treat “gummie bugs”.

More lessons from my chickens: they’re individually smart as needed, and each has a unique personality.

Dear Friends: Those little impulse chicken buys gave me years of eggs, fun, and learning. Diana

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