Martin Gur­don’s brood­ies

With Dot, Dash and Priscilla in­cu­bat­ing bed­ding and the oc­ca­sional egg, it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore Com­mer suc­cumbs

Your Chickens - - Contents -

There is a sense of frus­tra­tion in the gar­den, which has been grow­ing and get­ting worse as the weeks have gone by. The end prod­ucts have been fewer eggs and more ir­ri­tabil­ity. This is be­cause some of our seven hens have gone broody.

Dot the ban­tam started the trend about two months ago. She had missed a cou­ple of meals and I found her in the nest box, hun­kered down, bum in the air and clamped to a clutch of eggs.

Re­mov­ing this bun­dle of fury and plant­ing her near the drinker and food bowl didn’t go down well. Dot stuck out her neck feath­ers, screamed and at­tacked my hand, only to eat and drink with en­thu­si­asm once I’d let go of her.

When the bird re­turned to her gloomy nest box vigil she was un­de­terred by the fact that I had re­moved the eggs she had been heat­ing up, pre­sum­ably con­fi­dent that Dot and Dash would soon lay some re­place­ments.

So it proved, which has meant a war of at­tri­tion at meal­times in­volv­ing twice daily chicken and egg re­moval. Af­ter about four weeks, dur­ing which Dot showed no signs of wan­ing en­thu­si­asm for par­ent­hood, I opened the hen­house trap door to find that only Wonky the cock­erel and Com­mer the ban­tam could be both­ered to emerge.

I opened a nest box to find Dot puffed up and spread out like a psy­chotic, feath­ered gra­nary loaf. Squeezed in next to her, and equally broody, was Dash.

This re­sulted in dou­ble the meal­time angst as two birds had to be yanked from their nests (Dash soon hav­ing com­man­deered the other nest box).

At the mo­ment we don’t want the has­sle and po­ten­tial heart­break of chicks (think avian child mor­tal­ity and un­wanted cock­erels), but my at­tempts at dis­cour­ag­ing Dot and Dash from brood­ing have proved en­tirely fruit­less and with only Com­mer in lay, most of the time they have noth­ing to sit on egg-wise.

Their ab­sence has not im­proved Wonky the cock­erel’s tem­per. When they are in his or­bit both are more re­sis­tant than usual to his ad­vances and when re­moved from their nests and plonked on the grass they scream when he goes any­where near them. Wonky hasn’t taken re­jec­tion well, and he has started peck­ing them in a peev­ish way. When he isn’t do­ing that, Dot has a habit of sav­aging Dash and both will take a pop at Com­mer if the mood takes them. So the at­mos­phere in the hen­house is tense to say the least.

Eight weeks into this non­sense and nei­ther bird shows any sign of los­ing in­ter­est in brood­ing, en­joy­ing the sum­mer and quit­ting their nests, and per­haps our other birds have no­ticed and been in­spired by their be­hav­ior, be­cause in the last few days Priscilla, our age­ing, stately Brahma hen, has gone down the same hor­monal route and has with­drawn into the cor­ner of her hen­house to cook her bed­ding and the very oc­ca­sional egg.

As of this morn­ing, Com­mer was ex­hibit­ing sim­i­lar in­cli­na­tions. Oh dear. To win a copy of Martin’s book, Hen & The Art of Chicken Main­te­nance, turn to page 13.

Dash (on the left)

Dash is broody

Dot is broody

Priscilla is broody

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