Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The reverence of the Maternity Wing

They're at it again! Those hens! Two gone broody, one under the big Burdock bush by the water tap and one under the rabbit cages. Now the Burdock bush is in a high traffic area, especially when it gets hot because all the chicken flock congregate in the puddle beneath the tap to wet their feet and have a paddle. A water dish is also handily placed by the tap for dogs and chickens to sate their thirst, thus producing more activity. Not to mention the builders who have been toing and froing on the other side of the bush as they work on the Middle Barn, oh and the cement mixer placed just in front of the bush which has been noisily active for several days.

And the hen just kept sitting under the bush with a dedication which was impressive to watch.

At first it wasn't too bad for her. The vegetation was quite vigorous, and hardly at all could she be seen. And then someone, (NOT me!) decided that the bush was too large, and while it is a naughty type of bush because once it has flowered the Burdock plant makes these scratchy, sticky, seed heads which can give one quite a swipe if one is bare armed and bare legged, anyways someone, ( I repeat NOT me) cut it. Not in total. Just heavily trimmed. Her shelter had been reduced by half.

First there was one egg. Then two. Then one. Then three. Then one. And it came into my head that this should not be so. To blame: either Bools, Gus, the magpies of which there are several now that they have raised their young who are no doubt extremely healthy youngsters because of their diet of eggs, sheep's poo, piglet's poo, pig poo, and the leavings after all have been fed.

Action! At nightfall, with stealth, the hen under the Burdock was lifted up by Hubs, with moi lifting up the remaining egg. Into the dog kennel she was put, on a bed of straw, with the egg tucked up again beneath her.

Action! With continued stealth, on hand and knees, Hubs pulled the other hen out from under the rabbit hutches. Right at the back of them she was. But no eggs. Still......better to put her somewhere safe, so into the piglet transport box she went, again on a bed of straw, and tucked up underneath her I put three fresh eggs one of which was hers from yesterday and which I had been saving for the newly purchased egg incubator.

Well all this was a couple of days ago. But here's an odd thing..... there seems to have come upon the Tall Barn, which is where they are now in residence, a sort of quiet hush. A waitingness. It is as if the air is in suspension.

And so Labartere has a Maternity Wing. Of course it is nothing like an authorised hospital-type environment. For a start, the 'expectant mums' have to cope with me sorting out the sheep fleeces over their heads (I am separating various parts of the  individual fleeces into piles of 'clean', 'sort of clean', 'a bit daggy but do-able', 'definitely a bit beyond do-able but still could be used at a push', and 'yucky, dreadfully daggy, definitely no-go'.) And then there is Jean-Pierre and his co-worker to-ing and fro-ing. Yet the air still seems to hold a quietness. Do people-type Maternity Wings hold that same quietness I wonder! I think not.

The hens have hot botts now. But they don't complain. When they come into broodiness that is what happens: Hot botts. To help them go un-broody one has to cool their botties down. Not sure how one does that, but should the occasions arise in the future then a search on the Internet will no doubt provide the answer. One thing for sure, though, they don't moan or carry on about their aches and pains! Perhaps that is why there is this waiting silence hanging in the air around them. It is so strong that I have started tiptoeing and talking quietly just so I do not disturb the quietness!

Three weeks time we shall know if we are to have littl'uns. Fingers crossed for at least one chick between the pair of them!

Et voila: The Maternity Wing:

To the far left, the dog kennel in which is the Burdock bush hen. To give her privacy I have lent her my throw. On top is a pile of 'clean, wonderfully clean' fleece. On the chair on the lower right is another pile of same. I struck lucky with that particular sheep's fleece. The rest are mostly yucky. Behind the kennel is a pile of onions newly harvested, waiting for me to make them into a tidy pile after Hubs threw them down in a heap. Behind them is an assorted jumble of gardening pots which were quite tidy once - until the hens decided that it was fun to rummage amongst them. To the far upper right is the other hen. I put some pots and stuff on top of the wire on the roof of box so she could feel private. In front of her is the pile of tiles waiting since January for our builder to come and lay them in the Half Barn.

Meanwhile life goes on:

These two are fixated by the red bucket. It is the animal feed bucket. Wherever it goes, so do they. Hubs is in charge of the red bucket. Therefore wherever he goes so do they. He may or may not be carrying the red bucket though. But this does not seem to worry these two. They trot along behind him anyway, just in case the red bucket should miraculously appear.

However.... I am now having to buy eggs. Unless I am sharp and keep my ears skinned for the hens telling me that they have just laid an egg and then dash to wherever it is they have laid, the magpies will get there first. I know that all should live in harmony, but we are starting to list ways in which to deter the magpies from nesting here next year. I favour trapping and then taking it aways off to release. Hubs is erring on the side of catapult or shot gun. I am, however, trying to deter him, his fly-swatting activities making me feel concerned for the general safety of all. Bless.

That's it, then. The End. But only for this blog! How could I not continue to share the ups and downs of trying to run a homestead with you all, and I hope I give you as much enjoyment as I get from reading your wonderful and interesting blogs.


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

Great post, looking forward to hearing about the results of the maternity ward. Diane

Vera said...

Diane, we are looking forward to the results as well! Hopefully at least one egg survives into a hatchling!

Horst in Edmonton said...

I hope you get some hatch-lings as well. Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

John Gray said...

broody hens
they drive me bananas
no eggs and a great deal of effort!

Wylye Girl said...

We've so far lost 5 chicks, taken from under their mothers by RATS. So now I've followed in my grandfather's footsteps and bought a broody coop. The moment they go broody, they and their eggs go into it and there they will stay for three months until they are big enough to fight their own battles. Good luck with your girls

Nancy said...

Hope you get ah chick or two.

Vera said...

Whylie Girl, we acted faster this time when the hens got broody and got them into a quieter environment. A broody coop is a good idea, although where they are will be OK for a while should they actually get the eggs to hatching stage!

Thanks Nancy!

SueC said...

we were very frustrated when Custard(one of our two hens) went broody. We have no cockerel so the hens are just for the eggs- so no eggs was not good and Mayonnaise( the other hen ) got really lonely. Luckily we managed to discourage the broodiness eventually.

Jean said...

Fascinating. I had no idea that keeping hens could be so interesting !!