Artist and housing activist Anne Hars is also an animal lover who has over the years fostered feral kittens. When it came time to take care of the latest batch of kittens, Hars had help from her chicken named Ethel. Hars tells the story...
A friend of mine found a stray mother cat and 6 kittens behind the Hotel Carlotta in Hollywood. She brought them to me because she knew I have fostered many, many kittens — over a hundred kittens since I moved to my home on the border of Echo Park in 2007.
I have also had chickens for years and am down to just one remaining hen, Ethel, a white Silkie breed who was left with only one wing after an opossum attack.
Chickens do not like to be alone. So, if I am doing outdoor work, Ethel follows me around and helps with grub patrol.
The moment Ethel saw the kittens, she ran over to them clucking and just put herself in the mix as they played. When they got sleepy, they sensed the heat of her body. Chickens run much warmer than cats, so they snuggled under her, and she made room for them, drawing them under her wing.
Mama cat seemed to treasure the breaks from her kittens to take much needed catnaps. When they nurse with mama, Ethel snuggles with them protectively. She and mama seem to have an understanding.
Oddly enough, this is not the first hen I have had who has helped me with kitten fostering. I think it was 2009 when I found a very sick kitten who needed to be kept warm. I had a broody hen named Bigwig, also a white silkie, and I knew a broody hens body temperature is around 120 as they are incubating, or imagining they are incubating, eggs. They go into a kind of trance and only get up to eat quickly once a day for about 22 days or so.
I stuck the kitten under Bigwig and the kitten was saved. We named the kitten Tofu because she was a chicken substitute. The two bonded and had an amazing life together. They have both passed on now but they were life long companions. When Bigwig had her own chicks, they cuddled with Tofu who let them perch on her back. She was definitely unique for being raised by a hen. She loved fruit and especially corn kernels. She even ate vegetables from the garden.
What surprised me in this case was that Ethel bonded without being broody. Bigwig only helped me with foster kittens when she was brooding, otherwise she ignored my foster kittens. My other chickens had absolutely no interest in kittens at all, broody or not.
Chickens have definite personalities. Ethel is a pretty special chicken because she isn't brooding and yet is looking after the kittens like they are her chicks. After her opossum attack she lived inside for two months with my cats so maybe that has something to do with it. What people really don't understand is that chickens are individuals with their own characters.
Ethel's kittens have just started eating food and will be ready for adoption soon. Mama will get fixed hopefully with the help of Fixnation. She is under a year old, definitely a teen mom, and is extremely affectionate. I hope she will find a loving home perhaps along with one of the kittens. One thing for sure, these kittens will be unique. I work from home and it has been pretty hard to work with all the cuteness going on!
I am inviting people considering adopting a kitten, or should i say chikitten? to come over and hang out with this crazy menagerie, pick out a kitten and wait for when it is ready for adoption. It's pretty magical.
You can follow Ethel and the "chickittens" inquire about adopting them on their Instagram account.