Martin Gurdon’s indomitable hen Priscilla has gone broody and is busy incubating some chicks
I’m writing this at the doctor’s surgery, waiting for the nurse to have a look at my right foot, which is throbbing slightly from a garden-related accident
I was en route to feed the chickens, and trod on a piece of wood with a protruding rusty nail. A classic piece of dumbness that comes under the heading of ‘don’t do what I did, gentle reader’.
Fast forward half an hour and I’m home, having fully expected some medical ‘tut tutting’ and a tetanus jab. I didn’t get either, thanks to an understanding nurse and the fact I had a tetanus jab after a ferret bite in 2014. Regular readers might remember that something killed one of our ducks. This turned out to be a marauding ferret which, after biting me, was eventually captured in a dustbin and released into the wild.
Now I have a slightly throbbing right foot on which I have just hobbled to belatedly release the chickens.
Actually, things have taken an interesting turn in the henhouse. After taking a couple of years off, Priscilla, the Brahma hen, has gone broody, and is now cooking half a dozen potentially fertile eggs.
We’re still struggling to find people selling chickens after the bird flu lockdown, so took a punt on eBay, finding someone selling fertile, heavy breed eggs. The vendor was honest enough to say that he had a mixed flock and any offspring could be less than purebred. Still, we paid £12 for six eggs, which arrived by post 24 hours later, carefully packaged in a polystyrene box.
A WARM WELCOME
On both literal and physical terms they were warmly welcomed by Priscilla, who has spent the last 10 days slow cooking them. She remains in the big chicken run, where she seems happy, but next week I’ll transfer her and the eggs to our hen birthing box, so that if there are hatchlings they can enter the world in splendid isolation.
Priscilla has been stoic in the face of twice daily removals from the nest to persuade her to eat and drink. She curses in fluent chicken but doesn’t struggle, then ingests, drinks and often lumbers up the garden, shrieking and taking giant steps. After that she will spend some R&R time pecking and scratching about before returning to the hot fug of the nest box.
We like big, placid, heavy breed chickens, and that, hopefully, is what we’ll get, but it’s quite fun not knowing how they’ll turn out, although sod’s law dictates that we’ll be saddled with a bunch of crossbred, cross cockerels that will be hell to re-home.
Still, our main flock, whittled down to an ageing, if contented female trio, needs new blood, and this should provide it.
For Priscilla, who wasn’t very well a couple of months back, it’s also likely to be her final opportunity to be a parent, something she’s done twice before with great success, most recently with a clutch of ducklings.
We’re hoping what could be a last chapter for Priscilla could be a new chapter for our flock.
knowing fun not out It’s quite they’ll turn how
TOP: The indomitable Priscilla has gone broody after a couple years off ABOVE: Our eggs arrived carefully packaged in a polystyrene box