Posted on Jan 08, 2016
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
It's official: Jasmine is now a big girl chicken and is sleeping with the other birds in the barn.
Jasmine was born with crooked toes and could not walk. When we were asked to help, we brought her to our avian specialist and after a week in the hospital her toes were straightened and she was ready to go home. She was being raised to be eaten so we asked if we could keep her and Jasmine became a part of our gentle family.
If Jasmine had a chicken mom she would never be alone for the first several months. She would have a mom who would protect her, show her where food was, and keep her warm at night. These responsibilities became ours and Jasmine came to live in the house until she was big enough for the barnyard.
For her first two months, Jasmine was with me 24 hours a day. She came with me everywhere: in the car, at my desk, and even to the grocery store. As she grew older, she was able to spend some time in the barnyard each day under the watchful eye of our fabulous volunteers. Her time in the barnyard increased slowly until she was able to spend all day outside and come inside for dinner and bed.
Over the last month, she seemed to really grow up. Like a teenager she seemed more and more Independent and less willing to cuddle. She even seemed irritated with our snuggling bedtime ritual and just wanted to go straight to sleep. Each evening when I would go out to bring her in the house she would run from me and be harder and harder to catch. I did not feel I could not just leave her in the barnyard by herself in the dark; it was unsafe. So I kept telling her that if she's ready to be a big girl chicken and wants to sleep outside she needs to follow the other chickens into the chicken room in the barn where she'll be warm and safe.
The other night I went to bring her in for dinner at the same time I always went to get her but I couldn't find her. I looked on her favorite log, under all the trees where she naps, in all the stalls and pig houses and could not find her. As a last resort, I checked the chicken room and there she was sound asleep, happy as can be with all the other chickens. I checked her crop to make sure she had eaten, and she was nice and full. I checked her feet to make sure she was warm enough, and she seemed warm and cozy. So with tears in my eyes I told her how proud of her I was. I stroked her beautiful grown up porcelain feathers. I sang her one last lullaby, then walked out and closed the door behind me. I didn't sleep well that night. I kept tossing and turning wondering what it was like for her out there for the first time. Missing her! The next morning I went out to the barn to see how she was. She was so happy eating breakfast with the other hens and following our rooster, Mario, around. The next night I went out to see if maybe she had changed her mind and wanted to come inside with me, but she was in the same spot asleep next to the others in the barn and seemed so happy. This time I didn't wake her. I just said a silent prayer to my angels to protect her, as I walked up to the house alone, my arms empty, my heart full.
It is hard to not hear her talk in her sleep or make the softest sweetest sounds in the morning as I awoke. But just like a child goes off to college, I knew this day was coming and I was overjoyed that it was her choice, in her timing. Of course, I still get to cuddle with her and watch her explore with her new feathered family during the day.
What an honor and a privilege it has been to be Jasmine's mommy: to watch her grow and get to know her intelligence and affection like few people get to. I will always cherish the time I got to be a mommy hen to a beautiful feathered angel named Jasmine!
Come visit her any Sunday from 10-2 and see how wonderful she is!
Written by Ellie Laks
Founder, The Gentle Barn