There has been the occasional news story featuring a dog or cat lovingly caring for an animal of another species. But, in Steve Hayden’s case, his mother hen isn’t just keeping her eggs warm, she is also helping to care for five kittens.
Hayden said he has a Russian Blue feral cat that comes and goes from his property. But, this past winter, a young stray female cat came to visit. Because the two cats often fought, Hayden would lock the young cat in the hen house. After a short period of time, Hayden and his wife discovered that the young cat was pregnant.
The Haydens set up an Igloo-style dog house for the cat and her babies, yet, instead, the hen made herself at home to nest.
“The mama cat doesn’t spend a lot of time with those kittens like she should,” Hayden said. “But she does go in and feed them all the time.”
With the cat not tending to her kittens, it didn’t take long for the expectant mother hen to start caring for them as if they were her own.
“When it was cold, those kittens would be up underneath her feathers,” Hayden said. “She would use her beak to pull them up under her — so she’s a surrogate mother for sure.”
Hayden said, when the cat is feeding, not only does she get along with all of the chickens, she is very protective of the chickens as well. He said he often has to enter the hen house with a broom to the let the mother cat know he means no harm.
According to Hayden, it almost seems like the mother hen and cat have a sort of unspoken relationship in the way they care for the kittens.
“The cutest thing is when the mama cat and the hen rub their heads together,” Hayden said. “It’s the cutest thing you ever saw.”
Hayden said he is not sure how much longer this relationship will continue. The kittens are growing bigger each day and the hen’s eggs are due to hatch soon.
“They’re getting out and opening up their eyes now, so I don’t know how much longer she’ll be nurturing them,” Hayden said. “What’s going to happen is, the eggs are going to hatch, and she’s going to have those chicks in there with all those kittens.”