It is that time of year again: just when you think all is well and your hens are laying regularly, one of them decides to get broody. That means a cranky hen takes over the nest-box and prevents the others from laying eggs there! This time the youngest of the hens started first.To stop her interference with the egg-production she was moved into an adapted rabbit hutch, and separated from the rest. Last year she was too restless and didn’t follow through, this time she sat patiently for 3 weeks and produced one chick, out of 3 eggs. At first I thought it was a boy: long tail-feathers being a clue. At about 8 weeks old it now looks more like a girl: wider tail feathers, comb looking small and no gills to show. It is notoriously difficult to sex newborn chicks, so I wait in anticipation: is it going to be for the pot, or increasing the flock as future egg-producer?
Meanwhile a second hen took over the nest-box a few days ago and again brought the egg-laying to a halt. As the Maternity Ward is already occupied I had to come up with a new house for breeding. A chest of drawers was transformed into another ‘hutch’ with the bottom drawer left in for easy cleaning. Mommy is now happily sitting on her bed of straw, with 3 eggs under her. I found in the past that more eggs does not mean more chicks…..the very first time the mother was so busy fussing over the first 2 chicks, that she completely neglected the third one as it struggled its way out of the egg and then perished from the cold. The mothers can also be very clumsy and stand on their new children. Survival rate not great then. Last year saw the best egg-to-chick ratio: 3 survived out of 4 eggs. Alas, all were boys, which meant no expansion of the flock and a lot of fighting when they grew up. Noisy too, when they practiced crowing.
But they all look cute when they are little.