It was like being in one of those Bil Keane “Family Circus” cartoons, the ones where the kids made their labrynthine route from one place to another. I knew the chicken was laying her eggs in the wood pile. The reason I knew that was because I’d found her first nest in the neat little hollow of the sycamore tree. She did not take kindly to my removing her precious babies and found herself a better hiding place for her next set of eggs. I’d seen her making her way back to the wood pile and reappearing a little later, plus her favorite rooster cackles for her when she lays her eggs. Now there’s an odd genetic trait. What better way to tell predators to come and eat than to cackle right after the egg is laid?
Although this little hen is only about 6 months old, meaning she’s just started laying eggs, she takes procreation very seriously. I think she fully intends to brood her small cream-colored eggs once she has a dozen or so in the nest.
She’s a funny little hen, being part black and silver Cochin and part Jungle Fowl. FYI, the Jungle Fowl is supposed to be the original Asian bird from which all chickens are descended; I got this bird from friends in the Village of Oak Creek (he was a gift rooster, not that there is really such a thing.) That rooster was the one that killed the hens he didn’t like and I killed him after that. Now, mind you, the Daddy bird was about half the size of the Mommy bird. The logistics of how little Goldilocks came into the world are somewhat mind-boggling, as is how two dark colored chickens managed to produce a baby as brightly colored as she is. Even the slight feathering (a Cochin trait) of her feet are blond.
So, after I stole Goldilock’s first clutch of eggs–she had eight in the tree hollow–she took umbrage and found this new nest in the wood pile. For a week I scoured the pile, lifting this piece of wood and that stick, peering into corners and daring to stick my hand into dark places (not really a good idea–I’ve seen Brown Recluses out there). Finally I realized there was only one way I’d ever find that nest. I’d have to catch her as she was making her way to it and watch where she went.
It happened the other day. I was out on the swing–the turkeys love to watch people swing; they stand in a semi-circle and comment to each other about how that creature is managing to fly without wings–when I caught a glimpse of gold making its way back toward the wood pile. I slipped out of the swing and started to follow her. She stopped stock still. Her head turned one way, then the other. I’d been spotted!
Sure enough, she turned and walked away from the woodpile, moving casually as if she’d meant to go in that direction. Up the embankment she went, clucking to herself, shooting glances at me. She zigzagged along the embankment until I eased around the trunk of one of the giant sycamores and disappeared from her view. A minute later I peered around the edge. Yep, she’d done a 180 and started back to the wood. I poked my head out. Dang! She saw me. This time, she went the other way, walking along the top of a fallen branch, inspecting the ground beneath it as if hunting for a tasty bug. I shifted a little more forward as she took another turn. I crept out of hiding.
Too soon! She caught sight of me and froze. I did the same and stood completely still. Her head turned again, first one eye, then the next checking to see if it was really me. Apparently it wasn’t, because after a moment she began moving again. At this point, I think she was getting a little desperate with that egg ready to make its exit, because she pretty much made a beeline for the area where I knew she had to be laying.
But as I followed her around that last piece of wood, I lost her. All I could see was the blanket of dark golden sycamore leaves that cover the pile. Augh! (Okay, I know…that’s “Charlie Brown” but it fits the situation.) Every one of those leaves was the exact color as that chicken! But she had to be here!
Back and forth I went, studying every inch of this particular heap. It was five minutes before I spotted her. And they say chickens don’t see color. See if you can find her in the photo. (Hint: she’s at the center)
There were ten eggs waiting there for me after she left. Just as I expected, once I took them she abandoned that next. I’m thinking she needs a chicken-cam buckled to her tiny head. Either that, or I’m going to have to let her sit on her nest and hatch out her babies. Just what I needed, lots more chickens that lay SMALL eggs.