Michelle is in a race against time to find two broody nests

Your Chickens - - Contents -

With Michelle Dunn

Sur­pris­ingly, no-one has ever asked if they could fea­ture my chick­ens in their lat­est sum­mer block­buster film. This is a shame, be­cause my chick­ens are not only dev­as­tat­ingly pho­to­genic, they have ac­tu­ally thought up their own plot.

Ev­ery block­buster film has a mo­ment where the brave hero (or hero­ine) fights des­per­ately against the clock in or­der to save the man/woman/dog/ sports team they love. There’s a close-up of the clock­face show­ing the sec­onds tick­ing away, then the cam­era pans back to epic strug­gle of the hero (or hero­ine). Well, I am in the same boat as that hero­ine, fight­ing against the clock to save the life of two of my hens.

It all started one evening when two of my hens didn’t turn up for din­ner. I searched and called for ages, but there was no sign of the miss­ing pair and so reluctantly I had to close the rest of my chick­ens in for the night. There were only two pos­si­bil­i­ties -– they had both been taken by a preda­tor, or they had both gone broody in a spot so well-hid­den I couldn’t find it.

Two days later, one of the miss­ing hens sud­denly raced up to me and pecked my feet un­til I gave her some grain. She was alive! And broody, so I needed to fol­low her back to her hid­den nest site .... as abruptly as she had ap­peared, she van­ished again and I was left none the wiser as to where she was hid­ing. The next day ex­actly the same thing hap­pened again, but this time with the other miss­ing hen. On the plus side, they were both alive. On the mi­nus side, they were both sit­ting out­side at night on nests and com­pletely vul­ner­a­ble to a fox.

It’s not un­usual for a clever hen to sit out­side, un­de­tected by the fox for three weeks. The prob­lem comes when the eggs hatch, and the smell of the newly hatched chicks can be de­tected by the fox. It was es­sen­tial that I find the hid­den nests be­fore the eggs hatched. But how?

Three more times the broody hens have ap­peared, dust bathed, eaten corn and then van­ished again. They are too fast for me to fol­low them, and my hens roam on eight acres of land. That’s a lot of search­ing. I must find them though – the clock’s tick­ing.

“I must find them – the clock is tick­ing”

Above: Miss­ing - will I find her in time?

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