Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The hen saga continues...

Hen update: Two eggs today. One laid out front by the hay bales, one under a giant weed growing by the Tall Barn. Both retrieved before Gussy could get at them.

Gone somewhere else: two of the hens sitting under the rabbit hutch which looks like they have been ousted by the black hen who is now sitting by herself in that spot.

Too late I came upon the info that hens who are driven into the need to sit upon eggs have an internal body clock which must be obeyed. And that if a hen is removed from the nest she has built then it can cause them much upset apart from the fact that they are really very angry to be shifted and tell you so with great vigour. This internal mechanism makes her sit for about three weeks, during which time she will only come off the nest to snatch food occasionally. In our experience this happens after she has been in situ for at least half the sitting-on time. This means that she is virtually starving, although that internal mechanism slows down her metabolism such that she is not at risk.

Unless some do-gooder, seeing her being outed from her original nest by a usurper who thought it necessary to acquire a ready-made nest which caused a bit of a jostle in the small confined area, that event being followed by another hen deciding to do the same, thus making the hugest of jostles all of which the do-gooder thought was unfair on the first hen.

So do-gooder unceremoniously shooed away the other two, and got hold of the original hen who didn't think much of that at all and told the do-gooder so in no uncertain terms, even having a go at some unclothed skin on the do-gooder's arm although did no harm. With a clean tea towel, thinking that it was best that no human aroma became stuck to the scent of the egg, the do-gooder, with one hand, gently picked up the eggs, of which there were ten because other hens had been contributing to the nest as well, and carried the unhappy hen under one arm and the bowl of eggs in the other, to a different place, whereupon all were placed.

She didn't like that at all. But did go into sitting mode. Only not on the heap of eggs although she played football with them for a bit although did not cause any breakage. However, they were abandoned and grew cold therefore the life inside the eggs came to a stop.

In exasperation the do-gooder saw this and alas patience dwindled away, for this do-gooder only ever tries to do what is best, only sometimes 'best' is a tad off-kilter.

So the hen was let out of her new home. With head held outstretched and wings flapping madly she charged at speed back to her old nest site, shoving the other two hens to one side so she could continue with her sit-on although she had no eggs upon which to sit. Her hormones told her to sit so sit she did.

What the hens do when they have a sit-on together, is that when one is driven to find food the other will steal her eggs while she is away, and vice versa. Unfortunately when the eggs hatch, there is a possibility that the chick will be thrown out of whatever nest it has hatched in, and attacked.

To have three hens sitting thus so, means that the likelihood of them rearing young is much reduced.

For the kitchen, this means that three hens are out of action and are likely to remain so for a while, so no egg production. Not only that, but the do-gooder's attempt at giving the first hen a chance to rear a family backfired big time, for not only were the eggs abandoned, but the interruption to the internal mechanism of the hen has put her health at risk apparently.

So the do-gooder did the only thing left to do, and that was give up. Let them get on with it. They want to sit in a heap, then let them sit in a heap. But she did make a blessing for the ill she had inadvertently done the hen, and carried on with her blessings to include all the animals currently residing on her petite ferme, and who are contributing to producing learning curve after learning curve.

And a word on 'learning curves': Some use the expression 'muddling through', but if I use that expression myself then I tend to feel defeated and slow within myself, all purposeful energy seeming to evaporate.

However, if I use the term 'learning curve' with which to tackle the various problems which come our way, then although I feel out of puff a little bit my energy still holds good, although it will feel as if I am trying to climb up a mountain at least as big as  Everest, if not bigger.

Somehow, 'learning curve' fires me on, makes me feel that I am contributing to the growth of myself. And each learning curve bolts on the learning curves already learnt, so that one feels the accumulation of knowledge and experience growing as the learning curves bolt themselves on to each other. 'Muddling through', for me, makes me feel the reverse. It makes me feel inept. 'Learning curve' says 'Crikey, this is hard work, and why does it have to be this hard, and I can't do this...' but still gives me the energy to keep trudging onwards until that particular learning curve is done.

I am getting quite plump now with the learning curves that have wrapped themselves around me!

As for the hens, the learning curve for them is still very much an ongoing process. I have fought the idea continually aired by Hubs, that they must have a chicken run in which they should be kept until the eggs are laid, then they should be let out for the rest of the day. I have said that they should do henny things because they are hens. So, hens on a sit-on under the rabbit hutches, one upset hen and her two chicks still in a rabbit hutch, one egg laid out front on top of one of the hay bales, one egg laid under a weed. By the way, on examination of the sit-on spot, I saw that the black hen has wedged the other two hens further back in the space, so at least I know where they are.

This learning curve is heading towards the acceptance that Hubs is probably Hubs right, and that order needs to be established for the general well being and peace of mind for both humans and chickens!

And the ten cold eggs? Boiled up and given to the pigs. Nothing is wasted when one is a petite fermier.


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Right that has definitely put me of getting chickens in my life. There is enough stress with out chicken help. I was thinking about guinea fowl but decided that they were too noisy. At least if there are no animals around we can go on holiday! Having lived with animals of some sort all my life, I find not having any around very strange but maybe it has some advantages :-) Diane

John Gray said...

the joys of broody hens

I hate them!

Vera said...

John, I don't mind them doing broodiness, it is just that our three are having a group-brood, and I know that they will then argue over any chicks which manage to hatch, and will probably evict any little chicks from the nests because none of them can be bothered to make the effort to parent it! Bless!

Vera said...

Diane: Can't blame you about not wanting to have any more animals because it curtails your freedom of movement. Maybe at some point in the future we will feel the same, but at the moment it is unthinkable that we should be without them. Hope you are enjoying being back in France. Silly remark really, as I do know that you love France!

Wylye Girl said...

Hi Vera, that brought to mind my hens in France. I had baskets in the henhouse for them to lay in and suddenly three went broody at the same time and both decided to make the same basket their nest. I moved them into separate ones, they moved back. Then they started stealing each other's eggs. Goodness knows if they ended up with their own chicks! Here we have a piggery with a large '4 berth' nesting box which opens out onto about 2 acres of orchard and woodland. They always lay in the nesting box. We didn't teach them it is just their place of choice. Makes it easier to get the eggs at least. Bon courage!