My Blind Hen Hildy – Going home to roost March 8, 2013
One of our biggest worries relating to Hildy our blind hen was that, while she had learned to leave the coop, she hadn’t learned how to go back in. This made a certain amount of sense, given her disability. After all, when leaving the coop in the morning, she was going toward a bright patch that opened into an even brighter area: the outside. But to go back in, there was no bright patch: just darkness. Our blind hen would have had to go from an area where she could see a little bit, into an area where it was dark and much more difficult to perceive her surroundings.
She just never learned to do it.
For her entire life, we would have to carry her in at night. She was sweet and affectionate with people–speckled sussex chickens often are–and there was a certain charm to the chore, mind you. Guests would often ask if they could carry our blind hen in for us: she was friendly to a fault. Sometimes Hildy would come to “knock” on the door when she was ready to go inside: tap tap tap went her beak. Scratch scratch went her feet. But it was also frustrating, in a way. If she could recognize our big (dark) door as a door, why couldn’t she recognize the dark open coop pophole, which moreover she went through every day? But maybe it was just that she understood in a vague way that when we appeared in her world,we magically emerged from the porch area.
On days she didn’t knock, she’d settle down in a little spot on a stone wall near the coop and wait for us. If we went out early, our Salmon Faverolles rooster Gautier would still be outside standing guard over her; he didn’t retire until the last possible minute if one of his girls was still outside. If we went out later, he would be inside… but standing at the door, waiting.
Either way, every night, one of us would go out, scoop up our blind hen and stroke her feathers before carrying her into the coop. She’d snuggle her head down and close her eyes to be petted. She loved having her wattles stroked, and she loved gentle scratches beneath her wings. Then we’d set her inside the coop and lock up, so everyone was safe.
There was one problem with her outside time, though: while the rest of our flock could forage while they were outside, our blind hen couldn’t see to forage. She knew how to eat from the feeder in the coop, but once she started coming outside in the mornings, that would mean she’d have to go without eating and drinking the whole day! Next week, I’ll talk about how we dealt with that problem.
Do you have any extra friendly hens (or roosters)? Please tell us about them in the comments!