Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sad ending to the Olive and Rube story .....

This is a post I would prefer not to make.  It marks the sad ending of a series of stories I have been telling over the lasts few months - the one of Olive and her determination to be a mother.  My Polish Hen, Olive, went broody on us in early April.  For those who don't know chicken terminology, "going broody" means that a hen gets into the “mood” to incubate eggs and raise chicks.  Once they're in the mood, there's no deterring them - they go into a trance like state that they stay in until the eggs hatch.  Polish Hens are bred as "show birds" and do not normally go broody which is why I was so surprised when Olive did.  I should have followed my instincts to take the eggs out from under her because I knew they were not fertile, but there was a chance that a bantam hen had laid an egg in her nest, so I let nature take it's course.  Sure enough, Olive eventually hatched out the bantam's chick and instantly adopted it and was so sweet and protective of her new baby.  I blogged so much about the little celebrities that I held a contest to name the new chick.  A blogger friend, Thisisme, won the contest and we named the chick Rube - it would be Ruby if it turned out to be a hen and Ruben if it turned out a rooster.

The first hint of a problem was on Friday morning before we left for a weekend trip.  I went out to feed the chickens, and found Rube all alone chirping loudly for his mother.  I started looking for Olive and found her searching for worms and bugs in another area of our backyard.  I didn't think too much of it - just thought the baby had been following her and couldn't keep up - or that maybe she was teaching him a little bit of independence.  I continued to notice her straying away and found it to be odd behavior for an otherwise wonderful little mother hen.  I briefly thought about caging them while we were gone - they are free-range - but got busy packing and just forgot about it.  I should have remembered.

I got a call on Saturday afternoon from my daughter who was feeding our animals in our absence.  She was upset that something had injured Rube - and our precious little chick didn't look like he was going to make it.  She put feed and water in the cage and tucked Rube and Olive comfortably inside and hoped for the best.  She indicated that Olive didn't show much concern that the baby chick was injured.  The best didn't happen - little Rube didn't make it and it makes me so sad to think that our sweet Olive - who started out being such a great mother - may have neglected her baby in the end.

Isn't mothering an instinct in hens?  I mean, that's where the term "you're just an old mother hen" comes from.  Mother hens are famous for flogging anything that threatens their chicks and Olive had been that way also.  Mothering in all species of animals is just a natural born behavior, or is it?   I would have given my life for my babies - and still would now that they are adults. 

Maybe Polish Hens just don't have the mothering instinct that causes them to continue to be a good mother after the baby "cuteness" wears off.  I've heard of young cats who have neglected their kittens, and dogs that don't take care of their puppies.  And of course, we've all heard with sadness stories about mothers who neglect their children and put them in harm's way.  But it's not meant to be that way.  What goes wrong to make a good mom go bad?  Maybe Olive finally noticed that this little chick looked much more like the other little hens in the yard than it did her.   Maybe she just got tired of the chick limiting her activity.

But wait, I'm just assuming neglect.  I prefer to think that it was just an accident - that she looked away for a minute and a stray cat or a dog grabbed her baby - haven't we all looked away for a moment at some point in our "mothering" days?    She may have tried to fight the predator off but it was too much for her.  Maybe Olive is sad also, like any of us would be if something happened to our little ones.  I'll go out and cuddle her and give her the benefit of the doubt.  She deserves a little comfort for being the mother she was - careless accidents can happen to the best of us.  Poor Olive.....


  1. Oh my, oh my, poor little Rube. That is so sad but perhaps it just wasn't meant to be. As you say, who knows what really happened, and it is good to give Olive the benefit of the doubt, as she might be missing little Rube as well, so I think a cuddle is indeed called for. My poor little Rube though! :(

  2. Thisisme, I thought about you before I posted - I told my hubby that you would be sad since Rube was your little adopted chick also. Olive has been following me around all day like a lost puppy - it's been a while since she even paid attention to me because she was giving so much of herself to Rube. Poor little Rube - he finally trusted me enough last week to let me pick him. It's very sad :(

  3. Oh, it is very sad, especially as little Rube was starting to trust you. I really did feel sad when I read your post. Olive is obviously feeling the loss, now that she's following you around again.


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