We had just moved to our current home, along with my daughter and son-in-law. Within a couple short weeks, she was at the Grange buying a few chicks--3 Barred Rocks and 3 Rhode Island Reds to be precise. She had researched mixing her own feed for them, and decided to name 4 of them according to seeds they might eat. The 3 reds were named Sesame, Quinoa, and Millet. In memory of Raindrop (her 1st Barred Rock), one of the younger set was named Raindance, one of the others was lost to a hawk. :( The 3rd Barred Rock was named Chia. They were all hand-raised by a very diligent young lady, and were all incredibly tame. If anyone walked back when they were out, they'd run up around them (us), and my daughter would sometimes remind us to "Watch your step." Talk about cute!
She also obtained a few older hens, and some ducks, so we could start getting eggs right away. These included a gold- or buff-colored one (a brooding hen), a mostly black one, and 2 more Barred Rocks. I can seldom tell those two apart anymore, and I only recognize Raindance because she is less afraid of us and more friendly. Chia was easy to distinguish as she got older. More on that shortly. We also ended up getting a silky pair (rooster and hen).
But, back to our story. After we lost one young bird to a hawk (we assume), we tried to only let the young ones out when someone was around to keep an eye on them. And as they got bigger, hawks became less of a threat. But there was one day ....
My daughter and I were gone, getting one or two more chickens, I think. When we got back, her husband broke the news that one of the remaining barred rocks had been picked up by a hawk--and we immediately assumed the worst. Then he went on to tell us that she was still alive--for now--and was in the house in a box under a heat lamp. It was Chia, already a favorite.
How did they get her back from a hawk? It seems that the hawk swooped down not 30 feet from where my son was standing and snatched up the small bird, quickly flying off with it. He yelled to my son-in-law, who was standing not far from the tree where the hawk landed. He then threw a stick at it and the hawk dropped the chick. Chia was evidently a little too big for the hawk to get the correct grip which would have killed her instantly, and perhaps a bit heavy for it to carry. However it came to be, my son-in-law ran over and picked up the injured little bird and put her inside.
Well, Chia survived, under special handling, and eventually rejoined the rest of her little brood. My daughter would sit outside with her to make sure she was OK, and she would sometimes stretch out in the sun next to her human caregiver. And she was always extra tame, loving to be picked up, or to jump up on lap or shoulder. The cutest thing was to see her run. Anytime she saw one of us coming from the house toward the back yard, she would get her legs in gear and run like I'd never imagined a hen could run, making a bee-line for us. It was just her way of greeting us, so glad to see us, maybe we'd pick her up or even have a treat of some kind for her. My husband used to help me with the milking, and it was pretty common for Chia to jump up and settle down on his knee for a bit. She did the same if anyone else sat for awhile in or near the coop.
As the young ones began growing up, they had to find/make their places in the pecking order. At some point Chia's comb must have suffered some kind of injury, because most of it kind of flopped over to one side. On that side of her face it almost looked like she was wearing a bonnet. Between that and her excessive friendliness, she was easy to distinguish from the others.
One recurring problem we've had with our birds has to do with the busy street in front of our house. There's plenty of land behind us, but I seem to find myself asking that age-old question: Why did the chicken cross the road? And the ducks too. Well, there's a drainage ditch across the road which seems to call to the ducks, but I'm not sure about the chickens. Whatever the reason may be, we often find ourselves herding the birds away from the road. We've had periods of time where we confined the birds to the coop, but then we end up letting them free-range again. Overall, they are much healthier that way (and mostly stay in the back).
Shortly after the younger hens began laying eggs, Sesame, one of the reds, was venturing out on the road and was hit--she was just on the white line on our side, and the car didn't even slow down. Was it somewhat deliberate? We may never know, but we lost one of our young, friendly laying hens. At different times we also lost 2 of our ducks, both females as well.
Chia did not suffer that fate, but she was generally one of the leaders to head out toward the road. Is the grass greener there? Are there more and tastier bugs? Sheesh if I know. But the day came, not that long ago, when somebody's dog was loose. Perhaps he saw her near the street, perhaps he wandered in following his nose. My son saw a barred rock running, chased by a dog, and shortly thereafter he heard a squawk. By the time he got outside, there was no sign of dog or hen. And--sadly--we haven't seen Chia since. Although she could run fast for a chicken, she was obviously no match for a dog.
We enjoyed her eggs as well as her personality while she was with us, and we remember her with fondness. Good-bye, Chia. Thanks for the memories.