Recently, bossy white chook became a mummy. The first time she tried to be a mother didn’t work out very well. She was sitting on too many eggs and she crushed them and she didn’t sit long enough and her two hatched chicks died, probably because she kept sitting on the eggs when she should have been looking after her young.
This time, bossy white chook was sitting on nine eggs. If we had not gone away to Adelaide it would not have been so many; we would have taken eggs from her nest as she laid them. Nevertheless, she was sitting on nine of them. Three hatched – on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The first one was jet black. The next one was grey and the newest one is blonde. After the third chick hatched, BWC left the nest.
She abandoned the rest of the eggs, and I was slightly disappointed and wished we had an incubator to finish them off. It seemed very very sad that the chicks had got so close to hatching, only to be abandoned. To make the story even sadder, when I went to dispose of the eggs, there was a little hole where a chick had started to hatch through the egg.
Nature has its funny ways. I guess that bossy white chook sat on as many eggs as she could, in order to guarantee that she would get some offspring out of her labours. Then, once she had enough chicks, and indeed as many as she thought she could care for, she left the nest to focus on her young.
I was a bit worried about what sort of mum she would make. After crushing her eggs last time, and having her two chicks die, I thought she might not make a good mother, but she is doing a great job. She is venturing out of the chook shed now, with her chicks cheeping alongside her. She is teaching them to scratch and peck.
I love watching the chickens. The mother hens flare out their tails beautifully and they make gentle cluck cluck sounds, communicating with their young gently. When the chicks step outside the enclosure their clucks get fiercer and sound more concerned. They seem to be letting the chicks know that what they are doing might be dangerous and that they need to stay by their mother for protection. Their clucking helps the young to know where their mother is.
I think you can learn a lot about mothering from a chicken. There is the patient sacrificial time of incubating the eggs, keeping the chicks warm once they have hatched, and then, when they are ready, taking them out and teaching them, through example and gentle guidance, how to survive. And then, when they have grown their feathers, letting them go, setting them free. And once their young is faring well from themselves, they maintain a good relationship with them too! They are still protective of their teenagers, and their teenagers often still hang around with their mother, especially when eating.