Friday, 30 August 2013

Against the odds.

There's an old adage found in the bible and attributed to the Roman poet Horace; 'You may drive Nature out with a pitchfork, yet she will ever hurry back over your foolish contempt'. I think it's absolutely true. And there's a little drama going on here at Scribbles Towers that illustrates it perfectly.

Remember Evie? Here's a reminder of how she looked when she arrived in April, just out of the 'enriched' battery cages.

For a while I doubted that she'd survive as she had a broken egg inside her and wasn't too well. She got a course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and electrolytes and after a while she began to pick up.
Along with her sisters she grew a splendid new set of feathers and settled in happily to be a real chicken.

Here she is on the left, still waiting for her new tail feathers which arrived in the form of sickle feathers, totally different from her sisters'.

A short while ago Evie began behaving a bit strangely, slightly distancing herself from the others and occasionally emitting an odd strangulated shrieking noise. Having read too many books on how chickens can change gender due to internal trauma I was suspicious that she was becoming rather cockerel-like and kept a close eye on her. The sickle feathers and the attempts at crowing had me convinced so I was very surprised when she took up residence in the nesting box, refused to leave it and fluffed up to twice her normal size and attacked me when I tried to collect the eggs. It eventually dawned on me that she was broody!

Now broodiness and maternal instinct is unprofitable in battery hens and man has attempted (on the whole successfully) to selectively breed to eradicate this behaviour. None of my other hens have ever become broody but Evie was determined. She gathered the eggs underneath her and refused to leave them except for a ten minute break once a day when she popped out for a quick mouthful of food, a drink a bath and a ginormous poop. Then it was straight back to the nest which she's lined with feathers she's plucked from her own breast. I was rewarded with the evil eye whenever I peered in at her.

I love the fact that Evie is not behaving according to type. According to the manner which we have molded and demanded. I love the idea that this little creature has reverted to such instinctive behaviour despite man's meddling. Despite being classed as 'spent' and fit only for dog food. Despite the trauma and stress that she's experienced. So I investigated further.

It transpires that it's not unknown for ex-batts to hatch a clutch of eggs, just unusual. But it has happened that they've set on the eggs for the required 21 days and raised chicks. So...

A phone call, a chat and a visit to The Canny Chicken Company over at Hethersgill resulted in me coming home with a box containing six fertile eggs of various parentage and Evie is now sitting on them instead of my breakfast eggs. Whether she stays broody long enough remains to be seen. As does whether the eggs are indeed fertile. And even if she does and they are there are still horrible stories of broken eggs, difficulties in hatching and (horror of horrors) of hens killing and eating new chicks! So having started this post with an old adage I'm closing the same way and trying not to count my chickens before they hatch! But I hope she manages to get at least one chick. It seems only fair and right. Funnily enough I named her Evie because the name Eve means 'to live' and I didn't think she would. It would be lovely if she could beat the odds again.

 And just in case you're not smiling yet here's a completely unrelated picture that should help.

P meets Prince and Pongo.


  1. That is a very special story indeed. Good on Evie and I'll be hoping like anything that chicks are in the offing for both of you.
    Oh yes, and I can't wait for my photo opportunity with P & P, and I could even be clutching a chick too... how exciting!

  2. A triumphant story! Even if those eggs don't hatch Evie has shown her true mettle.

  3. Yes there's something uplifting about it isn't there? Fingers crossed for Evie's egglets.