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