On a hiding to nothing
Some of Charlotte’s girls may be broody, but the others are continuing to lay, some in hard-to-find spots and beyond the boundary
Ionly want to produce one set of chicks this year. I put nine eggs under Sadie, one of my tried and tested broodies. She did not sit very well at all. I kept finding the eggs in disarray, with one or two broken or thrown out of the hutch. Eventually I found them all discarded outside, Sadie obviously not wanting to sit on these. I immediately took the four remaining eggs, along with four new ones, and put them under another broody, a Cuckoo Marans called Clemmie.
Again, I have so far found two of the eggs broken in the nest. These broken eggs all appear to have been infertile. I think my hens realise when the eggs are not viable and for this reason want to get rid of them. Once an egg gets broken, though, I have to clean all the others as I feel that the dirt could affect any developing chicks.
I’m pleased to report that Clemmie is now sitting well, but I have to lift her off the eggs every day and let her out for a dust bath, some food and water and to defecate. If I leave the hutch open, another hen invariably gets in and tries to sit on the eggs. This means that I have to guard the hutch, hang around for 20 minutes and then usher Clemmie back to her nest and shut her in.
THE CUPBOARD FINDS FAVOUR
The other hens are still laying reasonably well. I have just found a secret nest on top of the garden shed cupboard. Eight eggs had been laid on the plain wood on top of the cupboard (this was hardly a cosy, warm place to lay). However, the clever hen kept it a secret from
me for at least eight days. She gave the game away when I caught her standing on top of the cupboard, making the usual cackling noise to announce: “I have just laid an egg.”
Even more spectacular, though, was the nest my neighbour found in his hedge. He only realised there was a nest full of eggs when one had rolled out on to the nearby paving. He came over with a bag of 27. One interesting aspect is that once you have found and cleared a nest, no hen will lay in it again. The eggs will all be fine since they are different colours and so probably laid by four different hens over a period of a week or so.
PHOEBE IS FULL FEATHERED AGAIN
Last month I reported on Phoebe who went roaming. I pulled out half of her tail while trying to catch her, but her feathers have grown back in record time.
MAKING A SONG AND DANCE
My son had his girlfriend to stay recently and she wanted to know why all my hens were making such a noise in the garden. She had accepted the cockerels crowing extremely early in the morning, but I had to explain that when a hen lays she usually likes to announce the arrival of her egg. This can set the other hens off, either because they want to announce that they are about to lay an egg too, or because someone else is occupying the nest that they want to use. Keeping hens is sometimes just like having children as they scream and shout and quarrel over which toys they want to play with.
Hens make an array of different noises. They will screech when being pecked by another hen or if a cockerel wants his wicked way. Not all hens like to be mounted by cockerels. They will also make noises of pleasure — almost like a purring cat — when I bring them greens from my vegetable patch.
Clemmie has to be lifted off her eggs every day to ensure that she eats and drinks
The eight eggs laid on top of the cupboard
A hen was found laying on top of this cupboard
ABOVE: Phoebe’s tail feathers, which were pulled out last month by accident, have grown back again BELOW: Nest sharing