One of the many chicken-related problems smallholders face is what to do when your chickens turn broody. If, like us, you keep chickens for eggs, the last thing you want is a broody chicken as egg laying comes to a complete halt. Instead, the broody seeks out the nest box and refuses to come out – allowing herself the occasional five-minute dash to feed, drink and catch up with the latest celeb chicken gossip before running home.
This can go on for weeks. And, if you’re really unlucky – which we’ve just been – your entire flock of two egg-laying chickens can go broody at the same time.
We tried all the usual counter-measures to break the chickens’ broody instinct – counselling, bribery, scarcely veiled threats, the United Nations Chicken Mediation services – but nothing could persuade them.
So we gave in and bought some fertile eggs for a euro each. We were offered Buff Orpingtons and Brahmas and chose five of each. At least we might get some interesting looking chicks in a month or so’s time.
Sod’s Law is strong with our chickens. Three weeks in, one of our chickens decided that parenthood might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Her five-minute dashes turned into forty-minute strolls. Several times we caught her leaning up against the back wall of the house having a crafty cigarette. And she’d cracked one of her eggs.
We cellotaped the egg back together and she promised to do better. That didn’t last long.
By then, curiosity had gripped Shelagh. We have a rudimentary psuedo-sonograph – if you hold the egg up to a strong light source, you can look for signs of a growing chick – and Shelagh wanted to know how the eggs were faring. She then swapped the eggs around to give the viable-looking ones to the chicken who took her job seriously.
Last week the first egg hatched and good chicken and her eggs were relocated into our upstairs bathroom where it was warmer (Europe being gripped at the moment by the coldest, wettest summer since 1816 – ‘the year of no summer’)
Now we have three baby chickens – two Orpingtons and one Brahma. The Brahma is the breed with feathered legs. Here you can see them – pretty furry – at two days old. And this is what they might look like in a year. This is the breed of chicken that looks like a man in a suit.
And here are all three chickens together.
Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
An Unsafe Pair of Hands – a quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried – true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth.