Once upon a time, there were two chickens who made their home in a little white barn. They could have stayed with all the other hens and roosters, but chose a quiet life away from the clamour and bustle of the chicken coop. Their names were Scott (the rooster) and Stuff (the hen). The little white barn held many attractive qualities, such as interaction with pigs, turkeys, sheep, goats and horses, and all their leftover bits of grain, as well as many quiet corners to roost in.
After enjoying this quiet, abundant life for a while, Stuff got in the mood to have a more meaningful existence. She found a small triangular shelf in the corner of the sheep pen and began the painstaking work of laying her eggs there, out of sight of the prying eyes of the farm children who had been daily taking her eggs into the kitchen to eat for breakfast. When she had laid close to a dozen eggs (this took more than two weeks), she knew it was time to start warming them up. This is a special time in a hen’s life, called “going broody” and it doesn’t happen to every hen. (In fact, most laying hens have been selected over the years to avoid this behaviour, since they stop laying during this time.)
Stuff was one of the best- she sat on her eggs all the time, only getting up to eat, drink and poop once or twice a day. When she came back to her nest, she turned all the eggs over. She did everything right. Or so she thought. But after a month, still nothing had happened in the way of chicks. Since Stuff doesn’t have a calendar, the farm family kept track of the passage of time, and to indicate to her that her attempts at a family had failed, took away the unproductive eggs, leaving nothing under her.
Stuff continued to sit on her nest, determined beyond reason that this was the thing she had to do. So the family provided her with a nest of new eggs from other chickens. Stuff didn’t skip a beat. She continued to sit on the eggs of unrelated chickens.
On May 28, three weeks after she warmed the new eggs, she heard little sounds from under her feathers. Then she started to feel the tiniest movements of beaks working their way through the eggshells. Soon, she had four fluffy chicks peeking out from under her wide feathery bottom. Did she decide to, finally, after about two months, leave her nest? No, she was dedicated to sitting on the unhatched eggs, so after three days, Mrs. Farmer put on gloves and braved the flashing beak to remove the extra eggs and set her free from her shelf. It took a couple of more days, but soon she was moving about with her hard-won babies, determinedly attacking anyone daring to come close.
She has remained in the sheep pen where she nested, now with her nearly two week old chicks. To give the chicks a place to drink, the family nailed a tuna tin to the wall, low down and keeps it full of water. Stuff marches around the area, searching for grain in the straw and calling the chicks over whenever she finds some. She breaks large grains into little pieces with her beak and shows them where to peck. The sheep that shares her pen is scared to death of her, presumably because she gets furious when the sheep gets too close to her babies.
Every word of this story actually happened. If you don’t believe it, come see it for yourself at Morning Sound Farm.