French Hens

Ja­nine Marsh’s hens are far more in­ter­ested in food than moth­er­hood

Your Chickens - - Contents -

My lazy lot. Ja­nine Marsh on her flock

My friend An­nette, who lives sev­eral vil­lages along from mine in the mid­dle of nowhere France, emailed me to say that one of her chick­ens had hatched some cute eggs and I must come and see the re­sults. She was right. They are very sweet, fluffy lit­tle chicks.

Her chick­ens are very good at sit­ting on eggs and bring­ing them to fruition. My girls, on the other hand, can’t be both­ered. Oc­ca­sion­ally one of them will sit on an egg for a while, but as soon as they see me com­ing down the gar­den with the food bucket, all thought of moth­er­hood goes out the win­dow, or rather the coop.

Some­times they will lay an egg in the duck pen. They sneak in and lay it in a pile of duck eggs and then tip­toe away and leave it. I’m sure it’s de­lib­er­ate be­cause they’re too lazy to put in the hard labour re­quired to bring on their off­spring.

I’ve seen my geese sit there though tor­ren­tial rain and blaz­ing sun­shine fiercely pro­tect­ing their eggs. Ev­ery year it’s the same. They dig out a hole in the ground for a nest, lay loads of eggs and sit on them for months. Sadly, noth­ing ever comes of it. I think Fred the goose may not be as fer­tile as he ap­pears to think he is.

DUCK­LINGS

The ducks on the other hand, are very good hatch­ers. In fact, they are ob­sessed. Though I tried to gather all their eggs this year be­fore they started the long sit-in, some of them es­caped un­der hedges and into the fields at the bot­tom of the gar­den. They re­turned a few weeks later fol­lowed by the sweet­est yel­low duck­lings. No­body told me that ducks are the rab­bits of the poul­try world and, left to their own de­vices, will just keep pro­duc­ing more of them­selves. It got so bad this year I ended up with 46 duck­lings and had to find homes for loads of them - there were just too many greedy, needy ducks. I’m a hobby bird keeper not a farmer.

Per­haps I ought to be grate­ful that the chick­ens are more in­ter­ested in es­cap­ing into the gar­den and gain­ing en­try into the veg­etable patch or the house than hav­ing ba­bies. If I’m late feed­ing them by so much as 15 min­utes, they form a com­mit­tee at the back door, cluck­ing and squawk­ing in protest. They jump onto win­dowsills and peck at the win­dows. Ken, the minia­ture cock­erel, crows non-stop un­til I come out and at­tend to his food. He lives in the gar­den with Bar­bie, his minia­ture mate, so he’s fed sep­a­rately from the big­ger ones in the pen. If I’m very late with the food, he pecks me on the back of the legs while I walk to his food bowl.

Imag­ine if I’d had 46 chicks all be­ing taught by their bossy mums to com­plain when the hu­man is late with the grub. It doesn’t bear think­ing about… I think I’d be eggs-hausted!

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