This morning when I opened the chicken coop door to let the birds out to free range in the rain, Teeny, my little crooked-toed runt hen, paced back and forth as usual, chattering away. I've been watching her moult over the last week or so, first showing spikey feather quills in the bare spots on her shoulders and thighs, now opening and making her look like she has a perm as they unfurl this way and that.
Teeny is such a little fighter. She was the last to hatch out of the 19 chicks whose parents were massacred by the coyotes in May 2009. She had pipped about the time I came to visit my new charges in my friend's big fancy incubator. Her siblings were all several hours older, fluffy and dry, tottering about. My friend suggested if it were him, he would let that pipped chick die; chances at that point that it would come out alive were low. However, as he spoke he picked up the egg and gently helped the chick out. I don't know why...even as he did it he said he'd had bad luck helping chicks in this situation in the past and he usually had to euthanize them in the end.
Concerned, I gathered up the other 18 and took them home to warm and grow in the brood box, leaving the newbie to dry and hopefully live. It - I wouldn't know she was a she for several more weeks - did indeed survive, albeit with crooked little toes and a teeny tiny body...thus her eventual name: Teeny.
Now, 18 months later, this funny girl with the bent over toes on one foot (caused by low humidity in the incubator, the same reason she was failing to hatch) moves quickly through the paddock, sticking close to the rooster and often claiming his wormy offerings before the other, much bigger hens. She seems to be more succeptible to mites and other chicken parasites so has spent much of the year with big bald spots, now, thankfully, being covered back up by the annual reclothing that moulting brings. Despite being half Black Australorp, she remains teeny tiny, a bit bigger than a banty (miniature) hen. But boy, you should see this girl's eggs! I have no idea how that little body pumps out large-sized eggs, but it does, and with regularity. Good girl!
I smiled as I walked out of the barn and secured the door in it's semi-open-for-chicken-passing position, Teeny clucking and squacking and making all kinds of racket. That's what she does...she's a survivor, a talker, a go-getter. The Little Teeny That Could certainly has!!
Teeny in the middle, 3 months old.