I am referring to our feathered pets. Not all hens are cut out to be mothers. One of our hens, lovingly named 'Grey Chicken', repeatedly fails in motherhood. Not always her fault, but usually.
This is her story.
The most memorable fail was her abandonment of 30 eggs she was incubating. She had gone off into the forest and found a highly (un)suitable spot to hoard a zillion eggs and be broody. She isn't one for conformity and hasn't once been broody in a respectably safe place, be it a stable.. or a coop.
One rainy windy afternoon I heard a kerfuffle outside, chicken style. Now a chicken styled kerfuffle is quite a spectacle to witness. Chickens flying all around, a lot of flapping, and a whole lot of bocking. Not your everyday kind of bock either, a very serious scream bock. All of the chickens had escaped the beady eyes of a Brown Goshawk and retreated into the shed.
"Bye bye babies! Good luck in life!" Said the Grey Chicken as she fled for her life.
Under normal circumstances, after a quick bite to eat or a drink, she would go straight back to the eggs. But the Goshawk's freak them out so much they cower in the shed for hours. The eggs would be cold by then. So I did what any self respecting chicken rescuer would do. I collected the 30 eggs in the rain, fighting my way through the undergrowth and fallen trees, bringing them inside where I carefully marked them with a permanent marker and placed them in our incubator. Doesn't everyone own an incubator?
I kept the humidity stable, I maintained the right water level, and I turned those eggs everyday. I candled (just a term incubating experts like myself throw around) them often to monitor their progress and to weed out any duds.
I was rewarded 21 days later with the extremely loud pipping (the first crack), hatching and chirping of the first chick, at 1am! The rest of the chicks followed along within 24-36 hours, seemingly the middle of the night was the hatching time of choice.
Note to self: Do not keep an incubator filled with chicken eggs next to your bed.
We had our hands full. Chicks grow incredibly fast, probably because they are constantly eating, drinking or sleeping. Or.. being played with and placed in lovely castles made out of foam blocks.
Another time she had -all- of her freshly hatched chicks eaten by a Tassie Devil on the very night they emerged into the world. This time she had nested under a upturned clam shell. How did we know it was a Devil? We pieced together the obvious clues, all of the egg shells were gone (eaten) and also...
Tassie Devil caught in the trap we had set for the feral cats. To say we were anxious about what would happen when we tried to release it would be an understatement. To our grateful surprise, it just sauntered off like it gets caught in a trap ever other day. It didn't run, it didn't turn around and go us, it just wandered off into the She-oak forest.
Once she actually got them safely hatched and then prancing around the paddock, only to have them ceremoniously picked off one by one by the Brown Goshawk. We have since made a special enclosure just for hens and new chicks.
Unfortunately she is again broody, and once again in a bizarre location. I feel this may be her last chance at motherhood. And I feel like she has once again blown it.
Here she is in her new location under an antique mirror in the shed. She often leaves the eggs, and can never seem to sit on them all properly. I will be very surprised if any of these hatch. If I have calculated correctly, they already should have started to hatch, so it's not looking good old girl.
One of our newest mothers, and her first chick.
This is what Grey Chicken should be aspiring to.
Grey Chicken, the conclusion.
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I'm linking up with Grace today: