Hatching a plot for our broody hens

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Great excitement at Shoogly Towers this week, as we have three broody hens. Every spring, nature tells some hens to creep into a full nestbox and sit on the eggs there. The more the merrier.

Once there, they become immoveable. Solid. Flattened down to the straw like some sort of chicken egg-cosy. Their feathers are all fluffed out, their tail sticks up in a v-shape, they put me in mind of a (mini, feathered) hovercraft.

All attempts to shift them are met with growls and odd screeches. Other hens queue up outside the boxes, almost crossing their legs, desperate to get in there to lay. But the broody hen will not budge. No siree. She’s made up her mind to be a mum, and be a mum she will.

Some folk try to ‘break’ broodies and the methods are many and various. But because we like to breed our own chunky chooks (with spare boys for the pot), if we get a broody we like to use it.

And this year we have our two new cockerels, Sergeant Murdoch the very handsome Scots Grey, and Gilou the La Bresse Gauloise (aka the French chicken).

As my few loyal readers might remember, Seargeant M is named after one John Murdoch, a relation of Mr E’s who was killed at the beginning of World War One. Gilou got his name because we are fans of the excellent French cop drama, ‘Engrenages’ (called ‘Spiral’ over here). Gilou is a banty cock of a man, one of lead character Capitaine Berthaud’s trusty sidekicks, whose retro policing style has a lot in common with DCI Hunt in Life on Mars.

Well, now will be the time to see whether Gilou and Sergeant Murdoch have been doing their proper cockerel job, if you get my drift. Aware of the younger reader who might have been forced to read this column as part of their punishment during school detention, I will keep it clean.

We had three hens determined to go broody this week, so we are letting them have their wish and have set up three lovely, quiet, cosy wee nest boxes with runs for them to sit in peace on eggs. Gamford even re-felted the tiny roofs, under the watchful eye of Queenie the turkey, acting in a supervisory role.

It’s a fine line between failure and success – you need to get in there quick and get them on some eggs before they decide to give up and wander off. It’s also important that you let them cause (major) disruption to the coop for a couple of days just to make sure that they are as committed as they seem, otherwise you pop the eggs under them and they jump up and wander off.

One has all green and blue eggs, the second has all brown eggs and the third, who is tiny, has a handful of eggs in cream and white. This clutch includes two teeny bantam eggs from our one and only bantam, which is the Young Master’s pet and isn’t getting any younger.

Hooefully, he pays it so little attention to it now that when it drops off the perch we can substitute (hopefully) one of its ‘mini-mes’ from this year’s hatch and he’ll be none the wiser.

Roll on Day 21 and hatchin’ time, and we’ll see if our boys have made the grade.