Secret Life of Poultry: Charlene

Last summer in western Massachusetts, Jude was visited by a stray chicken. Jude, having absolutely no experience with chickens, wasn’t quite sure what to make of the scraggly little red chicken in need of a good meal and some love. She gave the hen some treats and put it out of her mind.

Jude was an animal lover, so it wasn’t a big deal to show the hen a little bit of care. Her kindness had an unforeseen effect on the young hen, which took to coming by every day for snacks and good foraging opportunities.

She became a regular sight at the family home.

Jude and her family named the hen Charlene but had no intention on keeping her. After interacting with Charlene, Jude realized the little hen didn’t come from the best home, saying, “We believe she ran away from her previous home where there was little care, interaction, or food and shelter provided.”

Soon Charlene was spending all her time at in their yard. During the day, she was content to forage, finding bugs and goodies and getting treats from the family. At night, she made her own place, claiming a young tree in the family’s yard as her roost.

Over that summer, Charlene found the good life. She was allowed to run free and sleep under the stars, while living under the watchful eye of a kind family.

As the weather turned colder, Jude and her family began to worry about Charlene’s well-being. It was clear that she had no intention of returning to her previous home for the winter.

It can get fairly cold in Massachusetts, and they had grown to love the adventurous little hen who had made a home for herself on their property. Jude consulted with a friend with years of chicken experience and created a shelter for Charlene.

Catching the hen wouldn’t be a problem. During their time together, Jude had forged a morning routine of giving her a handful of sunflower seeds. It was something that Charlene looked forward to each day, and she would come right up to Jude for her treat.

The family decided to keep Charlene in the garage over winter. The garage was attached to the house and would stay warm enough for a single hen once the temperatures dropped. Jude set up a large metal dog crate, complete with a non-tipping water bowl, a nesting box with wood shavings, and a feeding area.

The family expected Charlene to become agitated and stressed about being confined to the dog crate at night. They covered it with an old flannel sheet to create a darkened space to reduce anxiety, and at dusk they introduced her to her new home. Instead of becoming agitated, Charlene took to her crate like a champ, seeming to enjoy the change.

“She climbed right into her box and began cooing,” Jude said. “I think she realized she had fallen into a version of chicken heaven. No more windy, rainy nights spent in trees.”

Since the first night in her crate, Charlene has blossomed as a part of the family and has happily become part of their daily routine. “She is locked in her crate at night and every morning I open the door and she comes clucking out to say good morning,” Jude commented.

Charlene doesn’t seem to miss the other chickens in the least, preferring her new family as her surrogate flock.

In addition to Charlene, Jude also has two Labrador Retrievers. Charlene and the dogs get along well. She enjoys following them around the yard, scratching and foraging with her strange, four-legged flock members. Charlene is incredibly curious, following the family around when they are in the garage or yard doing chores.

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