A Mother’s Love

These chicks, hatched yesterday, are getting a lesson about drinking from their attentive mother. Little chicks are very curious. They look at everything with wide eyes, but they stay close to their mother.


On the Trail

This Barred Rock mother is watching over her chicks as she takes them along a garden path. They are 25 days old and are confident enough to venture a ways on their own. But, she is always watching out for them. With eyes on the sides of her head, she can see nearly all around her without moving her head. So she can see what chicks to the right, chicks to the left, and chicks behind her are doing.


Mother for a Month


A month ago she was looking out for eight tiny chicks. Now the eight chicks are a month old and getting more independent by the day. By now, they are too big to all fit under her when they sleep at night, but they still snuggle around her when they go to bed at night. She takes them out to forage before the sun is up, though I’m not sure if it’s her idea to get them up so early, or if it’s the chicks who wake her up.


What a Happy Chicken Looks Like

Hmm, so what does a happy chicken look like? What does a happy chicken do?


One thing chickens love doing is being outdoors. They love to meander through thick brush. And they’re not afraid to do it on their own. Chickens are communal birds in that they like to roost together, share a dirt bath, and gossip. At the same time, they need time to themselves. Watching these chickens behave, it makes me wonder how frustrated chickens must be which live in crowded conditions.


Even when they are still very small, chicks will venture a long ways from their mothers and siblings. At times it can be a lot of work for the mother hen to keep track of her brood. This freedom is what chickens crave. They need all this room to roam in order to lay exquisite eggs like these.


A Mother Hen’s Touch

These chicks are now three and four days old. They stay close to their mother all day long and watch her every move. They watch what she is eating. They watch where she drinks. They roll around in the dirt with her when she takes a dirt bath. When she goes for a walk they run alongside her.


Two hundred years ago, this is how all chicks were raised. According to the National Chicken Council it wasn’t until the 1920s and 1930s that the modern chicken industry began to develop. Prior to that, chicken was a summer meat, something special for Sunday dinner.

Now, the chances of a chick hatching under a mother’s warm breast only happens in small backyard flocks. The chances of it happening in a commercial setting and for customers to purchase chicken raised this way is infinitesimal.

Out for a Walk

Out for a walk
Most people think of chickens as stupid, simple creatures. Yet, when you watch a mother hen with her chicks, she is constantly interacting with them. She carries on a conversation with them from morning until night. As she leads them from place to place in search of food, she is also watching for any danger. She is watching and listening to the other chickens, as well as looking up and around for anything that might harm her young.

This is what it looks like when a hen takes her two and three day old chicks out for a walk. Of the billions of chickens raised in the US each year, only an infinitesimal few are lucky enough to have a mother to take them out for walk.

What Mothers Do


Mother hens are usually very diligent mothers. If they feel their chicks are threatened, the puff up into big balls of feathers. With outstretched wings and spread tail feathers, they puff up to twice their normal size, shielding their chicks and letting other chickens know that they mean business.


In Thick Brush

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Mother hens spend a lot of time with their chicks in thick brush. The brush provides cover from predators and their is a cornucopia of good bugs and worms to eat in the forest floor. Chickens evolved from jungle fowl, and they need to spend a good portion of their day hunting in thick brush and forest.


Teaching Them to Feed

Chicks will grow up without a mother hen to teach them how to feed. But when they do have one, they follow her around everywhere, watching what she is doing, what she eating, how she is digging it up, and finding out what she finds especially delicious.

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Soft on Their Feet? Imagine the Impossible


When a chicken walks over moss in the woods, does it notice how soft it is? Does it pause, close it’s eyes and wriggle it’s toes in the moss?


The one month old chicks are quite independent now. Can you spot the chick in this photo? She’s a long way from her mother and even her siblings.


Her siblings are also on their own. But they are all wondering where their mother is. They keep chirping for her. “Mother! Mother! Mother! Where are you?” they keep calling. “We’re over here! We’re over here!”


She hears their calls and joins them. What is interesting about hen and chick conversation, is that when chicks get lost, the hens do not respond to their calls by clucking. When a chick is lost or can’t see its mother, it will start chirping and chirp very loudly. The mother will go looking for it, but while the chick is chirping, she does not call back to let the chick know where she is.

But mothers are not always silent. When they find something good to eat, or when they sense danger, they have specific calls they make to alert their chicks. But if a chick should go missing, it’s up to the chick to tell it’s mother where it is.

This morning, Hazel has found a new nest to lay her egg. Most hens move around, laying eggs in a nest for a week or two, and then finding another nest. Someone will need to do a doctorate dissertation on the nest selection process hens use to pick out nests. This information could then be used for predictive analysis. This would enable someone with a flock of chickens to know each day, where each of the hens was going to lay her egg. This could be matched with their laying cycle, and an app on your iPhone could alert you in five or ten minutes in advance, where each hen in the flock was going to lay an egg. You could then set up your egg collection schedule to optimize egg collection.

Such information could free millions of hens from their cages and cramped egg laying houses. They could be set free onto pasture and woodland. A small army of slow moving, egg collecting robots could be directed to arrive at each nest, a few minutes after each egg was laid, to collect it. The system could also know each hen’s laying habits. Does she leave the nest immediately after laying her egg? Or does she settle down for five or ten minutes afterward? This way the robot could arrive precisely at the moment the hen leaves the nest. Since the robot would have information as to which hen’s egg it was collecting, it could stamp that information on the egg along with the date and time.


Customers would then have the ability to specify, “I only want eggs from Hazel,” or “I only want eggs from Barred Rocks.” The customization such a system could provide would be unlimited. Knowing each hen’s laying history, customers could request things like, “Give me a carton of the 100th egg hens have laid,” or “Give me eggs laid between 9:00 a.m. and 9:05 a.m.” Coupled with delivery robots, the system could deliver all the eggs directly to customers within hours of laying, or even faster. For those demanding customers who insist on receiving eggs so fresh they are still warm, the delivery robots could rush the eggs into the customer’s hands within a few minutes. Then the lucky customers could feel the still warm egg, close their eyes, and feel at one with the hen who laid the egg. They could magically sense that their egg was truly a living thing. Buying cold, supermarket eggs would soon be considered gauche, something no decent person would do. And the chickens could live lives of utmost bliss.

To create the future, you have to think fantastic thoughts.