This fall (2016) my sis and I had a brooding hen who would not abandon her (infertile) eggs. So when a new shipment of chicks came in at Wilco, I did a little research and discovered that some hens will adopt chicks.
Thinking I had the perfect candidate, we bought six chicks of the same species and I introduced them to her. She took to them like a duck takes to water…and they to her.
I kept them locked up in the hen house until they had ample feathers and were big enough to (hopefully) hold their own against the other hens. Then I let them out and sat in a chair for two days running to make sure my cats wouldn’t deem them palatable “crispy critters” and that, if they did, the mother hen would run them out of the pen.
As luck would have it, Hunter (my black and white cat, aptly named) quickly got the message (humanely, of course, using words and body language) that these were “my” chicks and that they weren’t on the menu. And the hen ran off any of the other hens who took issue with her brood.
Over the course of the next month, we lost one of the chicks. (No evidence of foul play. Just gone! So I suspect an owl or something that could carry it off unruffled.) Everyone else has survived. They’ve become back door beggars, too. Whenever I open the back door to go feed the goats and hens, they race over to greet me and accompany me to the shed where the critter food is stored.
So now at least seven of our twelve hens are back door pets until they grow large enough to be unable to get out of the fencing that was built to contain all but the smallest critters—like growing hens and sex-linked black hens. Come spring I’m going to have to trim everyone’s flight feathers again so they don’t invade Jackie’s wonderfully-manicured gardens. She loves their eggs but she’s far less happy about their vagrancy issues… She says during the winter months she doesn’t care if they’re out and about, but spring, summer and fall if they aren’t in the field with the goats, she lets me know all about it…and I correct the situation.
One of my black sex-link hens is brazen enough to come right into the house and snack on the cat food if I don’t shut the kitchen door all the way. If she ever figures out the cat door that’s embedded in it, I’ll be in big trouble! She thinks nothing of invading my space… and truth to tell, I don’t mind, as long as she’s quick about it.