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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Madder than a Wet Hen

Late last night a terrible storm blew in. I heard it and woke to comfort the children but in my drowsy state I didn't think of the hen and her chicks sitting in a cage with only a tarp for shelter.
When I set up the shelter the day before, I thought about wind and planned to anchor the tarp properly but I hadn't gotten around to it in time. I awoke early and looked out my bedroom window to see the tarp lying on the ground a ways from the hen's cage.
I jumped up and ran outside, praying that the chicks had not frozen to death on this stormy night. As I approached the cage, Fred baulked at me with utter disgust and loathing. Her feathers were completely drenched and the water had even filled the little nesting box so that she had been forced to sit on the tallest lump of hay to keep the chicks off the ground. She was in fact as mad as a wet hen. I felt awful!
Quickly, I got a box which we usually keep garden tools in, emptied it, and lined it with hay. I then moved mother hen into the box. As I lifted her up I was pleased to find that though the three chicks were damp but alive and well. They were not soaked to the bone because mother hen had used her feathers like an umbrella and sheltered the chicks through the stormy night. I moved the three chicks into the box with their disgruntled, clucking mother and brought them all inside.

I took the box into the kitchen and set in on the dryer so the dog couldn't get in. Then I turned on a heat lamp I had bought along with the chicks just in case Fred didn't accept the orphan chicks. As the  warm light filled the box, our mad wet hen stopped her constant baulking.

Gratefully, mother hen and all three chicks began to dry off. The chicks took turns perching on their mother's back where the heat of the lamp was more intense. Finally, all three chicks got onto mother hen, one even sat on her head! The tolerant mother sat still and let the chicks dry their feathery fluff before she tended to herself. In about an hour everyone was dry and much happier. I have secured the tarp much better and we will not have a family of wet hens again! Soon they will be old enough to move back into the chicken house with the rest of the flock


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