So. I made a huge mistake.
I thought it would be a good idea to let Mokey and her little babies out for a romp in the fresh air and sunshine. The rest of the flock was out prancing through the yard and I figured she’d want to be out there too.
Just for some back-story into this terrible decision: Last year our head hen, Little Carl, hatched out 9 chicks and raised them to be upstanding citizens. We kept one of them, named Rosie, and the rest were given away to friends.
Little Carl raised her chicks in the coop, in a closed off corner. The rest of the flock could see and hear them, and they were all together as a group. When I let them all out into the world for the first time, the rest of the flock went about their business and any time they inquisitively came over to look at the chicks, LC would chase them away.
Let me reiterate that she was the head hen.
Meaning she was the boss and they were all afraid of her.
Mokey is not the head hen. In fact she was on the bottom rung of the social ladder until little Rosie came along and took that place. Mokey and Rosie had battled for weeks over who had to be the least popular and Mokey had rightfully won her place, at not-quite-the-bottom.
Fast forward to today.
I couldn’t manage to get all five peeping chicks and a wiggling momma hen out the door all at the same time, so I had to do it in batches. I figured I would take Mokey and one chick out first, then grab the other 4 after I’d set them down outside.
I put them down on the patio and Mokey headed right for the underside of the stairs, probably for a much needed dust bath and to show her littles what dirt is. I went back in and somehow managed to hold all four remaining chicks in my hands. By the time I came back outside it had already started.
Feathers flying and squawking, biting, clawing, screeching mayhem had ensued.
Rosie and Mokey were in the middle of it, at each other’s throats. Rosie must have felt threatened by the sudden re-appearance of her nemesis after a mysterious one-week absence.
She attacked Mokey relentlessly. Jumping on top of her, pulling out feathers with her beak, clawing at eyeballs. Mokey was fighting back with all her might, with talons in the air ripping at any body parts that came into contact.
Meanwhile little Dahlia was peeping frantically and dashing around behind a pile of pots, and the rest of the flock was going after her. Mokey was attacking everyone all at once to protect herself and her new baby.
I stood completely stunned for a second, not knowing what to do. I tried to push Rosie off Mokey with my foot and then realized I was still holding four squirming chicks in my hands.
I dashed back inside, got them all back in their cage and came back out to save Mokey. I grabbed the dreaded rake (I use it like an extra long arm to corral them back into the coop) and chased off all the birds at once. Mokey was still freaking out, screaming and searching for her babies. I brought her and Dahlia back inside to settle down.
I stared scathingly at the rest of our horrid birds, who were pecking around in the yard as if nothing had ever happened. Who knew my sweet little chickens could be capable of such cruelty?
The truth is, this is how chickens operate. Their social order is different than ours. We establish hen head status by whispering about others around the water cooler, they establish it by beating the crap out of each other.
This type of behavior is not tolerated in our flock when a Momma hen is responsible for raising five babies. Knowing I’d have to try re-introduction in a different way on another day, I locked up the whole flock in the run and let Mokey and the babies out again to enjoy the sunshine.
It was precious to see her showing the babies how to take a dust bath, how to root through the soil for goodies, and how to bask in the sunshine. They copied every little thing she did and watched intently to learn how to be a chicken.
Now I’ll stop chattering about them and let you experience the day in photos.
They sure did have a blast experiencing the great outdoors for the first time. I can’t wait to take them out again!