When I opened the chicken hatch door, the hens and rooster scurried outside in search of the scratch grain I'd tossed on the ground. I walked into the hen house to fill the feeder and replace the water.
"Hey," I yelled upon seeing three week-old chicks but no hens.
For the past few weeks, three hens have insisted on sitting on eggs and mothering the three chicks. Just the previous evening, the three hens crowded into one nesting box with the three chicks. Now, no hens were in sight.
I don't know what happened outside after I yelled.
Maybe the hens played a game of paper-rock-scissors. Maybe they drew straws. Maybe there was some bullying and name-calling and pushing and shoving involved. Maybe one hen felt guilty.
All I know is that a minute later, a hen returned to the hen house, called the chicks to the feeder, and began showing them what to eat. When the rooster approached the chicks, the hen poofed her feathers and told him to back away from the chicks.
Last night, as the sun set, only the one hen gathered the chicks into the nesting box to sleep.
Apparently the other two hens decided they wanted nothing more to do with motherhood.