OO la la, sometimes life in chickenville gets seriously exciting.
Peaches, our darling little Pekin – so docile, so pretty – got in the mood for babies a month or so ago (inspired, naturally, by my putting three white plastic eggs in her nest). Being in the mood means said hen won’t come out of her nest, growls uncharacteristically whenever you come near and expands her plumage into a hot blob of obsessive motherliness.
My friend Mike at the University farm said I could have half a dozen of his A1 broiler eggs (they’re experimenting on creating ‘higher welfare’ broiler chickens – ones that have legs strong enough to take their own weight, unlike the usual miserable creatures we eat). I took seven for luck and eased them under Peaches’ bottom while she was sleeping (removing the plastic ones). Since then, she’s been spreading her pretty form Oh so-cleverly to keep all seven eggs warm. And today is the day, three weeks later, they are scheduled to hatch.
Mid-day and still no pretty yellow head poking from under her; I’m impatient; I’ve done all the reading-up on chick-parenting; I’m raring to go. So I do what you’re not really meant to do…I pick her up off the eggs and have a look. Nothing. Weird, because I can hear a cheep-cheeping somewhere. Is it a blackbird’s nest nearby? Certainly Peaches has numerous wild friends and neighbours…I get the kettle I have brought with me and sprinkle the eggs quickly with warm water (as advised in my marvellous 40’s tome – FOWLS AND HOW TO KEEP THEM), to loosen the membrane that might be holding back those sweet babes.
And then I see it – a little hole in the centre of one of the eggs. The cheeping must be coming from there. Swiftly I put Peaches back ontop, and force myself to retreat, so Nature can take its course. Fingers crossed that baby wasn’t calling out for help.