A few days ago we had torrential rain and gale force winds and in the middle of it I became aware of a kerfuffle in the hen run. Chief Hen Betty was quite agitated, strutting around and 'bokking' loudly. I realised there was a hen missing. I'd assumed she was in the nesting box but then I realised the answering 'boks' were coming from the maternity wing which was out of bounds to the hens. Closer examination was called for.
On opening up the door to Evie's private quarters I was disappointed to find her standing away from the nest and clearly quite affronted that she couldn't get out. As she didn't normally leave the nest for longer than a few minutes my first thought was that she'd got all the way to day 19 and had given up. I opened the door further and she hopped out to join her pals and I bent to look into the nest box. To my surprise there was Evie at the back of the nest box, clearly livid, and all the eggs were at the front. But there were seven instead of six. Somehow one of the others hens had got in and there had been a scuffle. One egg looked to be slightly cracked. Poor Evie. The odds were against her anyway without this.
I popped them all back on the nest and she promptly rearranged her skirts around them and sat back down, growling and cussing as only a broody hen can.
I still have no idea how the other hen got in. There are two possibilites; 1) she flew onto the roof which is propped open a few inches for ventilation and squeezed in, or 2) the wind blew the door open long enough for her to hop in then blew it closed again. Both seem unlikely but she certainly got in somehow and then had the temerity to climb in the nesting box and lay an egg.
So diligent little Evie continued to sit. I decided I would leave her until a few days over the prescribed 21 days just to be absolutely sure the clutch wasn't viable then I thought I'd buy a couple of day old chicks for her.
However, yesterday I heard her chattering away to her eggs and I wondered if all was not lost.
Today, according to the text books the 'would be' hatching day, Evie continued to chatter and cluck softly and when I looked in to give her some mealworms I found this;
Half an eggshell! When I listened closely I could hear cheeping from beneath her. Then I spotted a tiny bit of yellow fluff behind her. It seems that Evie has at least one chick. I didn't want to disturb her so left her in peace and went in to check the EvieCam which I had carefully positioned so that it missed the relevant area. Duh!
However it seems that chicks (fortunately) stick their heads out of mum's skirts now and then. Although the EvieCam pictures don't translate well to stills and are very blurred, look closely at at the bottom back left of Evie,
and very closely at the bottom right of this one...
Clever, clever Evie has hatched at least one chick. I think I see two on the first picture.
She's a proper Mother Hen. And clearly that makes me an honorary Grandhen and my Dearly Beloved an honorary Grandc... er. Right. That's not sounding appropriate. But anyway. We are all so happy for Evie although the worry has now changed from 'Will they hatch?' to 'Will they(it) survive?' which is a far, far greater worry!
Fingers crossed all goes well and I can get some photo's in a few days.
Mother Hens and Mother Nature. Just amazing.