Monday, 11 July 2011

We've got a hatchling!

Tall Barn Maternity Wing: One little chick out of four eggs sat on by two hens,  et voila, le petit:

There is something absolutely delightful about watching a mum hen show her little ones how to feed. She clucks, chuckles and coos, then when tums are full under her they go to snuggle up for a sleep. Anyway, these two will have to be moved today, and they are going into the now abandoned hen run, the other chickens preferring to go to bed up in the fig tree which gracefully arches over the run. Well it was graceful in shape and form at one time, but having the flock, including a few hefties, clambering up onto its branches has bent it all out of shape and made it raggedy:

Eventually it will be the place for a shady hot afternoon snooze for us....

...see how the dappled sunlight seems to lend itself to a feeling of wanting to leave all activity behind and stop for an hour or so, maybe to lie down and look  up at the enchantment of the leafy canopy overhead, maybe to let one's eyelids drift down, maybe to have a quiet snooze to recharge one's batteries. Of course you have to disregard the chicken run and the rather raggedy leaves of the fig,  but I hope you get my drift of thought. This, then, is the plan for this space in the future. For now, it is chicken territory.

Hey! Look at this cool gadget!......

It's a Brinsea egg incubator, and what a fangly dangly bit of kit it is! Takes seven eggs, and acts as the hot botty of a hen, keeping the eggs surprisingly warm and in a moist environment. Presumably this moistness acts the same as does the sweaty environment of the hot hen - as I say, the temperature is surprisingly warm, so much so that at first I thought that we were going to end up with hard  boiled eggs, and I can quite see that if this is the same temperature as that of the hen's undercarriage, that indeed it would be quite a damp place.

So this incubator is the model which turns the eggs as well. Took us a couple of days to actually see the machine do this, and in fact I was manually turning the eggs  to make sure that this was being done. And the marvelous thing is that the eggs have already grown in size. But I have a bit of a bother in my head - it feels quite a thing to be actually giving life. 

An egg, you see, arrives from the hen, but it does not immediately start growing into a chick. In fact it can sit around for up to a week with nothing happening inside providing the external temperature is fairly cool. Now this is because the hen needs to sit on a few eggs to make it worth her while. And these eggs do not come out in a wadge, no, they come out at the rate of one per day.

So she lays an egg, then goes off about her business for the rest of the day, then makes a return to the nest the following day to lay another egg, then goes off, etc..., until she considers that enough has been laid to warrant her efforts at sitting in one place for twenty one days, which is a bit of marathon. Then she plonks herself down on the pile of eggs, the temperature of her bottom half increases, the sweatiness must also surely increase, and this triggers the movement of life within the each egg. All of the eggs, then, start building life at the same time. And that is what this incubator does. but I am very aware of the life that is possibly being created within these egg shells.  

We have six eggs in the incubator, one of which is a handsome size so we had high hopes of being able to hatch a good sized chicken. However...this hen has just started laying, so this is her second egg. I don't know what has happened to the first egg. I suspect Hubs 'borrowed' it to make an egg sandwich when I wasn't looking. But the third egg I cracked open today for breakfast, to find a double yolk. And a thought: what happens if there are two yolks inside the egg in the incubator. Is it possible to have twins?

And another thought: why has one of the little brown hens suddenly decided to start crowing? She, who has been one of our best egg layers. And why oh why, did she decide to jump on the back of one of the new little hens this morning and 'give her one', just like the cockerel does. Are hens able to cross-gender? That question I leave with you.

Have had a bit of a trouble with the sheep. Why are they so naughty when they are able to move between the Home Field and their home in the Sheep Paddock, but yet are docile and undemanding when put over the lane in the Side Field. What goes on in their heads, that when they are across the road, which is when they should complain, they don't. It would seem that the more fuss you make of them the more demanding they become.

Anyways, the farmer who cut the grass for hay last year visited again. Said he would cut the fields at eight the next morning. So up early. Out to take the fences down across the drive through which the sheep travel to and fro betwixt field and paddock. Sheep out in Side Field, even though the grazing is minimal due to lack of rain, but the Home Field needed to left clear for the farmer and his machine.

No farmer, cloud and showers arrive instead. Cross about having to take those fences down, as tricky to put back up again, the ground being as hard as iron. In a mood with it all, was Hubs and moi.

So we hatched a plan, and decided to make the sheep stay out in the Home Field all the day long, and would move them if and when the farmer turned up but that he would have to wait while we did so. No travelling to and fro is allowed now. 'Twas their fault we have arrived at this decision. Out in the field they have to stay until night fall.

Checked up on them a while ago. They were having adventures in the hedge, and have eaten the vegetation away in one spot particularly sufficient for them to have a hideaway. But at least they are quiet, and not busting through the temporary fencing to eat in places they are not allowed to eat from, nor are they pushing open the gate to get into the Courtyard, nor are they yelling their heads off at each other. For today, the plan is working!

And for lunch, the first pickings from the beans and mangetout:

The size of one's personal halo does quite an inflation when one surveys the outcome of a raid into the veg plot. And it might not be much, but it gave us lunch.

There is nothing, but nothing, like eating produce fresh from the garden. I will often say this, and so will everyone else who does the self -grow thing!

Now off to check on the sheep to see what they are getting up to, and to move that little hen and her littler chick, so saying 'bye for now'....


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

Congratulations grandma, hope that you have a few more very soon. Are you sure that the chicken that is now crowing was laying eggs, guess anything can happen at Labartere!! I also picked my first haricot vert today, just in time for Nigel's arrival on Wednesday :-) Diane

Vera said...

Hello Diane, and well done you for starting your harvest as well! Yep! That chicken was most definitely a hen! We have had her for a year now, and she has given us some eggs! Hope Nigel arrives safe, and hope you have a wonderful time together.

rosaria said...

You make me want to raise chickens too!

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

Maybe she has had a sex change :-)). Thanks I am really looking forward to Nigel's arrival. If only we could sell the house in the UK then he could stay. It will be so nice to make France permanent and not have to go back to the UK for 6 months each year!! Diane

Horst in Edmonton said...

Hi Vera, the chicks you get from the incubator, you can stuff under the hen and she can have a nice sized brood. I think she will be much happier with more chicks. Congratulations. Isn't farm life so much fun, always something new happening.

Vera said...

Rosaria, do it! They are wonderful creatures to have around and quite addictive!

Horst, good idea! Farm life is indeed fun, and there is always something going on to keep one's self occupied!

Diane, perhaps the hen has had a biological sex change! Oh I so hope you get that house sold. It must be so hard for you both having to live apart. And that six-monthly commute! Crikey but that must be tough. Fingers crossed that you get that sale.

John Gray said...

I have a new all singing all dancing brinsea
it means more to me than my car!!!

Vera said...

John!!!Wow!!! A fellow Brinsea fanatic!!! Yippidaydo!!!

Duta said...

It's very interesting to watch life processes such as laying of eggs and the hatchlings that emerge from these eggs.

As for eating fresh eggs, fruit and vegetables that you grow with your own hands and effort - that's just wonderful!