"Mother's gonna keep you right here under her wing.
She won't let you fly, but she might let you sing.
Mama will keep baby cozy and warm." - Pink Floyd
Hardy in all weathers, Rhode Island Reds don't seem to mind the snow or the sun and are prolific egg layers, making them a popular backyard chicken where their dark red, almost mahogany feathers make a striking contrast to green pasture. They do, however, have a tendency to go 'broody', and this week one of her hens proudly presented us with five ginger chicks.
Within a day they were exploring the forest of clover. Unfortunately their second day in this world was a cold, rainy one and their legs are just not long enough to get back up the ramp into the hen house for shelter. I found mother hen sitting in the pouring rain with her chicks safely hidden, warm and dry amongst her feathers. While I picked her up and lifted her in, she held her five chicks tight to her body, under her wing. An instinct that gives rise to that old adage "to take under the wing", meaning to take care of someone, often while teaching them something new.
Rhode Island Red hens are generally very placid, while the roosters take their job of guardian very seriously. They can be quite aggressive towards an intruder, especially when he has hens with chicks. Our original rooster had to be 'moved on' when he became a bit too much to handle. Right now our young replacement is proving to be good natured... we'll see if he turns cranky as he gets older!