Rest Area staff encounter all types of unusual wildlife and domesticated animal behavior. On numerous occasions, our employees help relocate abandoned dogs and cats, or the errant raccoon or possum. Since many OTE rest areas are located within rural Oregon, field employees may deal with stray cows, sheep and other farm animals that find their way through worn fencing. OTE is fortunate to employ caring rest area staff (like Dave Schrom, pictured on the left with his feathered friend) who give their own personal time to care for sick, injured or abandoned animals.
My broody encounter
Working in a rest area in the middle of dairy country can be an interesting and sometimes aroma-filled experience. When that rest area is adjacent to one of the largest free-range egg producing farms in the county, the opportunities for interaction with livestock are numerous.
Around February 20th, I was mowing the rest area’s lower lawn adjacent to the Tillamook River. The north end of the property abuts Larry Zwieffel’s egg farm, and one of his hens had found her way over the fence. She was roaming up and down the steep and wooded bank that separates the west and eastern half of the rest area lawn. An “escapee” is not an unusual thing, and our usual approach is to let wayward hens wander outside of their normal confines and able to return to the farm at their own convenience.
A couple of weeks later, I was again mowing the lower lawn and noticed an unusual colored spot within the wooded bank. Upon closer inspection, I figured out that it was one of Larry’s hens who had set up shop nestled within the ferns and brambles.
It looked like she had been there for quite a long time. Clearly she was sitting on a nest of eggs. She looked dehydrated, so during my personal lunch break I went to pick up some grain from my own laying hens—and placed it and some fresh water near her, leaving her in place on her nest.
As the week went on, I gave the hen additional fresh water and grain, on my own time after work or during breaks. Her appetite seemed good, and she was drinking and seemed rather at ease in her temporary nesting place.
There was however, one rather large problem. Typically when hens go “broody” and sit on a nest, they stop laying eggs. That was not the case here, and as the week went on a couple of eggs had rolled out from beneath her.
I checked the eggs and determined they were not fertile and that her sitting was in vain. Nevertheless, I left her in place to see if she would give up over the weekend. Last Saturday, Dennis Worrel, our Tillamook rest area specialist, called Larry Zwieffel and notified him about our “visitor.” Larry said “Just watch for chicks, and call me back if any hatch!”
As it became clear to me that none were going to hatch, I decided it would be best to put the hen back over the fence so she could rejoin her flock. When Dave I lifted her up from the nest, 13 eggs were exposed, so she had been sitting for at least 2 weeks!
Dave Schrom will be checking to make sure the hen has not returned to the nesting site. He’ll update us and we’ll pass on the information in this post.