I’ve been meaning to bring you up to speed on the chicken front for a while now, but with one thing and another it just didn’t happen. Sorry about that. I shall now make amends …
Edna and Ethel, our lovely Wellsummers, decided last month to stop laying in August rather than in October. Elsie and I decided that in that case we didn’t fancy feeding them expensive feed until next April for no return other than the pleasure of their company and their muck for the compost heap, so they could go and play with all the other hens at the farm down the road. Which they did.
Now, as any fule kno, Michaelmas Day is September 29th and it is the day that you kill your pig. But did you know that it is also the day by which you have to get your hens into lay? Well it is, although I have no idea what happens if you don’t . But we certainly don’t want to find out, so no sooner were Edna and Ethel gone than we set to renovating and sanitising the hen house and digging over the run in readiness for our new birds, which we got three weeks ago.
Alice and Clarice are Rhode Rocks, Dyllis and Phyllis are Maran Cuivrees, and the simplest way to tell them apart is that the Rhodes have cream legs and the Marans have blue-grey legs. We’ve gone back to hybrids after maybe ten years of keeping pure breeds simply because organic layers pellets are now over £12 a bag and hybrids don’t stop laying for half the year. Neither do they go broody. They’re about 21 weeks old now, and oh boy have we had fun training them to go to bed at night. Never before have we had hens who just couldn’t grasp the concept of go up the ramp, go through the pop hole, turn left and step up onto the perch.
Until last weekend, every single night, these four went up the ramp, through the pop hole, turned round and settled down squashed together in the entrance looking out. In the end we took it in turns to go out there, take the front off the house, and as each one sat down in the entrance, pick them up and put them on the perch. And do it again when they jumped off. Which they did. Many times. Eventually though something connected in their little chicken brains, and these last few evenings they’ve been going to bed just like proper hens.
This naturally left us wondering what we were going to be in for when they started laying. I think we’d become resigned to the prospect of teaching them where the nestbox is, and still finding eggs of all shapes and sizes all over the place for a few weeks until they got the hang of the process.
It therefore came as quite a shock when Elsie came in from the garden this morning and said “Clarice is in the nest box”. I went for a look myself and sure enough, there she was, sitting tight on the straw just like a proper hen. An hour or so later I went out to see how she was getting on, and there she was in the run with the other three. “False alarm” thinks I, but I wanted to see if she’d at least managed to make herself a nest.
So I took a look, and to my surprise Clarice had made herself a nest of which any hen could rightly feel proud. And to my greater surprise, there at the bottom of it was an egg. A small egg, certainly, but a proper egg, with a nice brown shell, hard all over, with a proper egg shape to it, laid all by herself without any fuss or bother at all. In a nest. In the nest box.
That’s Clarice on the left in that picture. Clarice is awesome.