Most chickens in small, backyard flocks live out their lives quite comfortably in and around their coops in the company of their feathered friends. But every so often you run across a bird that marches to the tune of her own, special drum.
That is certainly the case with a 6-month-old Dominique egg-laying hen on Kate McCormick’s Waldo homestead. The fluffy black and white chicken has taken to making herself perfectly at home inside of McCormick’s 1800s farmhouse, despite having a rather fancy coop of her own in the backyard.
Evidence of an intruder
It all started around two weeks ago when McCormick returned home from a day at Common Ground Fair, an annual celebration of sustainable living produced by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association in Unity, Maine.
“I was really tired and I just wanted to go to bed,” she said. “I lifted up the throw pillows [on my bed], and there was an egg under them.”
McCormick said all she could do at the time was laugh, and look for the nearest suspect. In this case, her 7-year-old German Shepherd-Labrador Retriever mix Jake.
“I just looked at him and said, ‘You’ve never picked up an egg in your life, much less brought one inside,’” McCormick said.
Still, it was hard to imagine another explanation. McCormick had left her back door open out to her fenced yard for the day while she was at Common Ground so Jake could come and go as he pleased.
The only barrier between inside and out was a hanging metal screen curtain.
“Jake loves to go in and out,” she said. “The chickens are all out in the yard, and he loves spending his days sitting with them.”
Further investigation, however, revealed the culprit.
“I started walking around my house and found little piles of chicken poo,” McCormick said. “There had definitely been a chicken in my house.”
Caught in the act
The next morning the chicken returned to the scene of the crime, and McCormick was able to witness the hen’s antics first hand.
“I was awake and the back door was open and before I knew it, I could hear a chicken walking up the stairs in my house,” she said. “I quietly went up to see and saw her go into the bedroom, hop on a stool, jump onto the bed and lay an egg.”
The entire process took around 15 minutes, McCormick said, since the chicken took the time to arrange the blankets and pillows into a sort of nest into which she laid the egg.
“Then she hopped off the bed and walked back down the stairs like it was no big deal,” she said. “She ate all the food that my dog had pushed out of his bowl and then walked past the cats [and] made herself right at home inside.”
It’s now become an almost daily occurrence, and when the door is not open, McCormick said the chicken will peck at it from the outside or leap into the air and flap her wings against the door’s glass window.
“I open the door, she comes in, does her circle around the house and then settles down on the couch,” McCormick said. “I found an egg in the dog’s bed the other day, [and] I wonder if there are other eggs I don’t know about.”
A special chicken
So far, the Dominqiue is the only member of the 19-bird flock showing any interest in coming inside.
“The chicks all brooded inside and she liked getting more attention than the others even at an early age,” McCormick said. “When I would go outside after the chickens moved into their coop, she’d come over and sit on my lap. She is just a clingy chicken.”
Most recently the chicken started showing interest in exploring the kitchen counters, but that is where McCormick has drawn the line.
“My mom was here one day and she had the door open, [and] the chicken was coming in and out all day and wanted to hop up on the counters,” McCormick said. “When I got home, my mom told me she had been teaching her to stay off the counters.”
Chickens are affectionate and trainable
That kind of human-chicken bonding is not all that unusual, according to Donna Coffin, educator with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
“Many pets bond with their humans, including chickens,” Coffin said. “Chickens, like most animals, can be trained by positive reinforcement, [and] chickens learn fast.”
As for the young hen’s fondness for McCormick’s bed?
“A chicken likes to lay eggs in quiet, dark spaces,” Coffin said. “I think a bedroom might meet those criteria.”
Meanwhile, Jake is all-in when it comes to the flock.
“He let the chicks climb all over him when they were chicks [and] they would ride around on his back,” McCormick said. “They still climb all over him.”
As long as the chicken — who remains unnamed along with the other members of the flock — enjoys coming inside and behaves herself, McCormick said she is welcome.
“I would prefer she lives most of her life out in the coop, but she is welcome to come in and visit,” McCormick said. “Of course, this morning I had to wipe the mud off of her feet before she came in.”