Pumpkin’s Story

Day 323 of 365

This is the story of Pumpkin, our hen who we joke was abducted by aliens in 2020. Pumkin is a fantastic hen. In her older age, she’s quite chill and just blends into the flock, but she has a checkered and exciting past for sure.

She is cross between our Rooster, a Welsummer, and one of our Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, who were gorgeous birds–and so sweet. We had three of them, and they were wonderful birds. Sadly, they have all passed away, but I love that we have a few of their babies still running around our flock, keeping their beauty alive. Pumpkin is one of those babies. Pumpkin was born in 2018 and was raised by Broody Hen, our Rhode Island Red with the biggest heart in the world.

Pumpkin first went broody in the fall of 2019. It was very late in the season, but Pumpkin was such a sweet girl. I asked Ron about letting her hatch some fall babies, and he said, since her name is Pumpkin, it would be great to have some fall babies. They would be feathered before it got cold, and if we had unusual weather, we could just keep them in the garage.

So sweet Pumpkin raised three babies that fall. She did an amazing job. Outside of Broody Hen, Pumpkin was the best mom I have ever seen in my study of chickens as mothers. She was quite nurturing and took care of them forever. She mothered those babies until they were three months old! They were as big as she was nearly. I told Ron, any time Pumpkin wanted to go broody, we should let her raise babies.

Pumpkin’s first clutch of chickens was like something from a story book. She raised her babies so well as the leaves turned and fell, and they all played in the fall colors like a perfect little chicken family. When Pumpkin let go as a mama, her babies were all ready and very well adjusted.

Pumpkin’s second clutch of chickens was an entirely different story.

First of all, it was in the summer of 2020, so I guess it all makes sense in hindsight. Second of all, Pumpkin hatched a difficult baby–Kate! I have written about Kate before, but she is one of our driveway crew members. She does whatever she wants when she wants, and right now, I have no idea where she is laying her eggs. When she was a baby, she was the sassiest baby I have ever seen.

Pumpkin had a neighbor in the garage that summer. Ron build a little brood box with two apartments, but when the first babies were born, we realized it was a bad idea because the babies would get mixed up, which does happen sometimes and leads to babies crying. So we had the idea of putting up a long wall, a barrier of wood scraps and whatever else we could find, to keep the babies separate. So it was Pumpkin and her babies (Kate and Bianca) on one side of the wall and then Beethoven and her babies (Romeo and Juliet) on the other. Well, Kate didn’t like staying on her side of the wall.

She was a tiny little baby with fluffy chipmunk cheeks, and at bed time, she would march her little self all the way around this long wall and go visit Beethoven and her babies. Thankfully, Beethoven never minded, but Pumpkin would get upset and call and call for her baby.

So, every night until Kate grew out of this, I would go out there when I heard Pumpkin crying her upset-mama call. I would find Kate, catch her, and then take her back, while she was crying–ironically, to her mama. Hearing her baby cry would make Pumpkin really upset, so Pumpkin would attack me when I put her baby back in her apartment. It got so bad that I would wear oven mitts and a coat to deliver Kate to Pumpkin.

And that was just the beginning of a wild summer with Pumpkin!

Beethoven let go of her babies, Romeo and Juliet, so early. They were just five weeks old. I had a hope that Pumpkin was such a good mother she might adopt Beethoven’s babies. She did not. In fact, it was just about a week later that Pumpkin got a look in her eye that I know so well–the look of “I can’t take these kids anymore.” Always, toward the end, the mama hens get this look, but I was surprised because it was so early and Pumpkin had raised her last babies so long.

The very next day after I noticed Pumpkin’s look, Pumpkin started ditching her babies for little bits at a time–only she was disappearing somewhere. I had screaming babies and couldn’t even find the mama. Pumpkin would come back later, but I was worried.

After two days of this, Pumpkin disappeared for a long time. I thought something had gotten her. I searched our property and the neighborhood. I had all of the neighbors on the lookout for “an orange chicken with a gray tail who answers to Pumpkin.” I went out with a flashlight at night, looking in the trees, as chickens will often roost in the trees. I called her name, night after night after night.

I thought she was gone. But after about a week, one morning, I was in the garage, down on the floor, getting water and food for the babies both Pumpkin and Beethoven had ditched, and I looked up to see Pumpkin right at my face. It was like I was seeing a ghost. She came up to the food and water, so I stepped back to let her eat and drink. I had been worried sick about her, and I couldn’t believe she was alive.

I went to get the ducks taken care of, and by the time I got back, she was gone. Truly, I started to wonder if I had really seen a ghost.

I went though all of the searching again. I searched for another week, morning and night. I kicked myself for not locking Pumpkin in the garage that morning I saw her. In another week, Pumpkin appeared again. This time, I locked her in the garage. Ron and I made the plan to clip her wings (this is just clipping the feathers, not her actual wings) before we put her in with the rest of the flock. So we did.

That, afternoon, by some feat of flight that I wish I could have witnessed, with clipped wings, Pumpkin flew over the fence and disappeared yet again. I was devastated. It seemed like I was destined to lose this beautiful hen because there are just way too many predators around these Maine woods.

This time, I searched for two weeks before I gave up on her. Another week or so after that went by, and I tried to accept the fact that I may never see Pumpkin again.

One night, about 2:00 in the morning, I heard a chicken scream outside of our bedroom window. I sleep by this window, so I heard it clearly. I ran down the stairs as fast as I could, and Ron was right behind me.

I figured surely there was a predator in the coop. I didn’t stop to think about where the cry had come from. I just knew it was 2:00 in the morning, and I heard a chicken screaming. When I ran to the coop, I saw it was all quiet. Then, I heard clucking coming from the side of the house. There, in the dark summer night right under our bedroom window, was Pumpkin, just clucking and talking to me. I cannot even begin to tell you how strange it is for a chicken to be running around at night.

Ron and I agreed she had surely been dropped off by aliens and that she must surely have a story to tell. We closed her up in the garage and went back to bed. She never disappeared again.

Pumpkin’s life has been fairly uneventful ever since. I never let her raise baby chicks anymore when she goes broody, and Pumpkin just kind of chills with the most chill of the flock. She still lays eggs and seems to be healthy. We have no idea what happened to her those weeks, though I suspect she went broody again. But where she was and why she showed up at 2:00 in the morning remain a forever mystery, I suppose.

I did remember the next day, however, that I had been out that evening, in the area near our bedroom window, and thought I had felt the presence of a chicken. I told Ron about this and how I had looked everywhere. I thought maybe one of the baby chickens had gotten out. I never saw anything.

But I’ll bet Pumpkin was near there, being broody on an egg. That doesn’t explain the late-night return, but it’s interesting the locations were the same.

That’s Pumpkin’s story thus far. Hopefully, she lives a long and happy life. She’s really cool–and has a fantastic back story!

5 thoughts on “Pumpkin’s Story

  1. I’m trying my best to get my wifey into chickens. I almost had her sold and then people on social media started talking about how it’s expensive and not worth it. I’m back to square 1 🤦‍♂️

    Great post by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you garden, then the chickens will pay for themselves and then some, but if it’s just for the eggs, yeah, it’s cheaper to buy eggs for sure. Still, they are so wonderful, and if you garden, then they will save you money because their poop is gold. Will that help convince her at all, you think?

      Liked by 1 person

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