Thursday, 12 March 2015

A Truce with the Hens.

A peace truce has been called - I surmise.  Or maybe I clarified the expectations of the landlords?
It's early autumn and chook after bantam chook has been seriously clucky: zealously, furiously sitting on sterile eggs, attempting the impossible: a magical metamorphosis from pocket of goodness into chicks (if they think that far ahead).
Take away an egg from one of these frenzy-eyed, peckish creatures at your peril. (I exaggerate of course; I always do. Barely a peck from the girls we’ve raised from day-old chicks (above) themselves.) And who could blame them? Recently I've started picking up the overheated hen and bathing their tummies in cool water - which they seem to like - as well as keeping them in a cooler spot for two days when it happens; it does the trick. Then I check them each night: are they sitting on the perch, or huddled in a cosy boudoir?
Closing off two nest boxes left only 2 and this - somehow - has changed everything. Magically. Ah (they seem to think) they're for laying in, nothing else! Eggs are to be left for collection!

On the perch at night the cool air under their bellies keeps the hens less broody. And the culprits? Mainly the beautiful wyandottes (one silver, 3 gold), of course, and only one (of 3) of the light Sussex bantams (including the Blondies, Debbie and Harry, left). Worst of the lot is friendly little Freddie, but she is a simply gorgeous bird (who always runs madly to the food lady) and I think I'd forgive her anything.
Now they are back to scratching the veg patch and pecking at kale and finding insects; and we are rewarded with 2 to 4 eggs per day.
Does anyone want eggs?

Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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