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The Lucky Hatch

As I’ve mentioned in previous Biddy stories we’ve never kept a cockerel, in order to keep the Biddies happy we buy in fertile eggs for them to hatch. One very late spring “Ami” went broody, so we hunted around and bought her a mixed setting of Silkie eggs, hoping this would result in a brood of blue, white and black chicks in early summer.

We usually set our broodies at bed time so that they can settle down and spend the first night getting used to sitting on a clutch of eggs. From the very beginning we lift our hens off the nest twice each day i.e. morning and evening so that they can attend to their ablutions, exercise and not lose contact with the rest of the flock. The first eleven days they are allowed a strictly limited time off the eggs (5 mins) because incubation is at a critical stage. But we lengthen the time a little more during the second half of their sit until they have enough time to leisurely dust bath and feed before getting back onto their nest.

Whilst the birds are off the nest cleansing themselves, we occasionally inspect the eggs for damage just in case one is cracked and the contents leak out and infect the other eggs. Unfortunately, we have had the odd occasion when an egg “burst” under a hen and ended up with the absolutely stinking contents of rotten egg on the broody. We had to bathe the hen to ensure she was in good clean condition to continue sitting. Luckily having a bath has never made our hens desert their nest or young. An egg once burst a few hours after a couple of eggs had already hatched and there were two little Partridge Silkies to be babysat (by me) until their mother was bathed, blow-dried and returned to the nest to finish her job of hatching the other eggs. I find that putting the chicks under my jumper (in the dark) directly onto my skin keeps them warm and stops them from peeping and cheeping and it doesn’t distress the hen or the chicks at all.

Well let’s get back to Ami who’d sat 19 days. When Derek let her off at 7.00 am one Saturday morning he locked the broody box door just in case the other Biddies tried to climb in on the eggs and promptly went off and forgot to let her back on her nest! I went down the garden about 11.30am to feed the flock and saw Ami sitting at the door of her box waiting to be let back on her eggs. I opened the door and she climbed in and settled down to continue with the hatch. Derek didn’t return until about 1.00pm

And when I told him what had happened he thought we should simply throw the eggs out because 4 ½ hours was a long time. But I reasoned that with only one or at most 2 days to go surely we should let her sit and maybe we’d be lucky and she’d get at least a couple of chicks for her bother. Well the following day she presented us with a lovely brood of lively chicks Granted there were a couple of clear eggs but that was neither here or there, the fact was she had a family and we never, ever made the mistake of locking a broody hen of the nest since.

Maggie Wailes