After a couple of weeks of frigid weather, going out to the barnyard becomes a chore no one wants. That is until someone in the family comes in with a story about the little black hen who is hanging out with the equines! She offers the kind of entertainment you can’t find anywhere else. No matter how cold it is, the barnyard is really the place to be.
Our entertaining chick is eight months old, so one might think she should know by now what kind of creature she is. But she has come to be called “Little Horse” for a reason.
This chick was born last summer to an all-white chicken. The mother hen didn’t seem to be properly caring for her chick. At least that was the excuse the children gave for bringing her inside the house. For almost three months, the baby bird lived in a box for half the day and was carried around by the children for the rest of the time.
Occasionally, Peter and Brigit would take the bird outside, set her down and ask her to jump through the grass to follow them. Stumbling over her awkward legs and stretching out her neck to find her monster-sized parents, the little bird tried her best to keep up. Like any proud parent, the children laughed joyfully at the exploits of their little one.
When we decided it was time for the black chick to learn about being a chicken, she was already well on her way to having an identity crisis. Now in the chicken coop, she makes sure she keeps a large distance between the other hens and herself. When a human comes outside, she makes a chortling sound. It’s a sound like having something caught in your throat. We let her out of the chicken coop and she follows us around.
At least, that’s what she did until she discovered the equines. We have one black and white paint, and one gray donkey. They have long legs. And that’s what the little bird was used to looking for. From her perspective, mom and dad are just pairs of protective legs. So the little black bird began spending time with the long legs that are always in the barnyard.
While the other hens are huddled in the warmest spots of the chicken coop, the little black bird is keeping warm next to Legs the Horse. While the other hens are pushing each other out of the way to get at chicken scratch, the little black bird is standing on the feed trough trying to grab her share of alfalfa and oats.
It was Peter who decided the little bird had finally proclaimed her name. “She will be called Little Horse,” he announced.
Then for one of his sixth-grade classes, Peter needed to draw a cartoon. Drawing superheroes or some bobble-headed creature didn’t appeal to him at all. He simply had to think about the Horse Wannabe and his assignment came easily to him. He drew what we see everyday.
In his illustrations the bird is on the fence trying to convince the equines that she belongs with them and not in the horrible place where feathered creatures make cackling sounds.
Even the communications of Little Horse are becoming more horse-like. She makes soft nickering sounds, rather than the fowl sounds one might expect.
So, as winter settles into a deep cold, here in New Mexico, we find humor wherever we can. And Little Horse has made her next move. She jumped into the feed trough yesterday to assert that she is leader of the herd!