My Favourite

Your Chickens - - Contents -

The lovely Ophe­lia

“I would call her a ‘manic mum’ but she was also a very good and very proud mum.” Char­lotte Popescu re­mem­bers a very spe­cial chicken

Ophe­lia was an amaz­ing hen, an Arau­cana cross, pretty and feisty, she had a unique de­ter­mi­na­tion which made her a very spe­cial. She was hatched from some eggs I had bought from a lo­cal man; these were Arau­cana-cross eggs and the two hens that emerged ended up look­ing very un­like each other; Ophe­lia was named by my son Ben and the other hen was called Tuftie. Tuftie died un­ex­pect­edly at around two years old but Ophe­lia had a long and happy life. She had a lit­tle crest and a won­der­ful set of fan-like tail feath­ers. She was a good flier, be­ing light­weight and al­ways went up in the fir tree for the night. Ophe­lia was friendly but didn’t like be­ing touched; she would hop onto the gar­den ta­ble when I was hav­ing af­ter­noon cake and try and pinch a piece when I wasn’t look­ing. She was truly an independent spirit!

Ophe­lia was an in­cred­i­bly good mother hen; I would call her ‘a manic mum’ but she was also a very good and very proud mum. She achieved three broods two years run­ning by em­ploy­ing a quick turn­around. One year I kept a rough record of the dates. She went broody and had eggs put un­der her in late March; she hatched her chicks in April. She then looked af­ter her brood for about five or six weeks, teach­ing them for­ag­ing, dust bathing and how to look af­ter them­selves. She swiftly got back to lay­ing a few eggs be­fore fall­ing broody again in June and hatched more chicks in July. By early Au­gust she was rest­less again and went up in the tree on sev­eral oc­ca­sions for the night, aban­don­ing her brood, cheep­ing loudly be­neath; she was happy to look af­ter her chicks dur­ing the day but I had to put them in a box and bring them in for the night. She was lay­ing again by the end of Au­gust, went broody mid Septem­ber and hatched her last brood of the sea­son in Oc­to­ber. The key to her suc­cess was to go broody early on in the year and to lay only a few eggs in be­tween broods!

Ophe­lia was such a firm sit­ter, while in­cu­bat­ing her eggs, that of­ten I had to make sure she came off her eggs each day to eat, drink and defe­cate. On one oc­ca­sion af­ter her chicks had hatched I no­ticed that she was do­ing green poo. I looked this up and dis­cov­ered that it was prob­a­bly due to semi-star­va­tion!

Such an as­sid­u­ous and ded­i­cated Mum I have never had be­fore and I don’t think I will ever have again.

TOP: Ophe­lia - a fan­tas­tic mum

LEFT: Young Ophe­lia on the left with Tuftie in the cen­tre and a Pekin sur­ro­gate mum.

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