Goldie & her new babies!
This is Goldie, my favorite hen... Not only is she my oldest chicken, she is the only one who sits on a clutch of eggs and raises them to chicks. She's very protective - if you come near her she puffs up, puts out her wings and dances around her babies.. If you get too close, she charges and pecks. Jake, our 8 year old son, who doesn't listen very well and has to learn lessons the hard way (that Missouri mentality of 'show me') has tested Goldie a time or two, and been attacked.
Goldie arrived back in 2003 when Dick and I thought we would go into the free-range chicken & egg business. We thought it would be a good project for the kids to sell eggs at the markets and perhaps some free range chickens. Goldie was one of 40 chicks that we were raising for serious production, the type that does not include naming your critters, forming relationships or emotional attachments.
The chick to chicken to laying egg cycle takes a while. We bought our chicks in April, around Easter (the peak season), gave them loving care in a huge chick condo with a heat lamp, let them run around in the yard as they got older, and penned them back up in the evenings. Then, about June, we moved them into their own Chicken House. The Chicken house at that time was 1/3 of the three car shed unit out back - it's had all sorts of uses - the only vehicles that go in are Mr. Deere and a 4-wheeler or two during the winter. It's main use has been for critters (puppy rearing, Maggie's condo, bottle calves, and our first Chicken House).
Anyway, one night in July yours truly forgot to pen up the chickens, and poof! About 30 chickens were gone. Snatched. We found 'evidence' of a few of them in the field behind the shed. The chickens still had not started laying eggs. They don't lay eggs until they are pullets. For our chickens that was late in August, and as luck would have it, right before the weather turns and chickens slow down production... Winter is not egg season, unless it's a mild winter.
Going against the rules, I had formed an attachment with Goldie. She was the last of 'her breed' in the group. My chicken herd was now down to about 10 red gals, Goldie, and a few roosters. Too many roosters, as we learned after witnessing the daily 'attack' of roosters to chickens (one year we were down to 3 hens and 5 roosters - not a pretty site). This group stayed over winter, and we started the egg cycle up the following spring..along with the routine of letting the chickens have free run of the yard, adjacent fields, and to my dismay, the deck.
One day I noticed Goldie was gone. Poof! My favorite hen! After a few days of searching for her, and hoping she would return, I gave up. Life went on... Then, about two months later up saunters Goldie, with a little family of puffballs! I was so excited to see her and her little family! Talk about a a happy day! Goldie continued this routine each summer of disappearing for a couple months, then showing up with a new clutch of chicks. She's an awesome mom.
We almost lost Goldie on Christmas Day, 2004. We were in the house, blissfully surrounded by wrapping papers and new loot. I happened to go to one of the windows and look out, and witness Goldie being chewed on by our new puppies, Maggie and her rotten brother Joe. I screamed, ran out in my jammies and slippers and into the snow to rescue my poor hen. Her backside was defeathered and definitely chewed on. Raw. Meat exposed. Goldie was in shock, I was in tears and the puppies were getting a beating from Dick. We were sure that day was to be her last. We isolated her from the other chickens so she wouldn't be 'abused'. She hung on, in shock for a few days, then slowly began eating, drinking and gradually was moved back with the other chickens. She continued her annual hiatus of hiding a clutch of eggs, and to this day she has an area on her backside that is 'naked'. All moms have their scars, eh?
This year was different. Goldie decided to just stay in the chicken house (a real one) and sit on her eggs, were she hatched them. My intuition is telling me she is just isn't up for staying outdoors and risking her life to the wild critters anymore. She is also getting old. She's has quite the life, and I hope she stays on for a few more years!
These photos above are of Goldie and this summer's clutch. She had 5 chicks, but alas, we are down to 4. No, not a wild critter or puppies. Jake was trying to catch one, and didn't realize his own little boy strength. Both he and Sami came into the house in tears that day. The three of us love our little yellow chicks - and hen!