Idiosyncratic Poultry

Difficult to manage, but showing signs of being a good mother

With two broody hens sitting and another three dozen grey partridge eggs in the incubator, I’ve hit a bit of a problem. So far, I’ve been using the GWCT’s “Complete book of game management” as my bible, and while not everything has been plain sailing, the advice written down in the 1970s is serving me very well.

I get my broodies up at the same time every morning and let them out for a feed and a shit, but one of them just won’t play ball. She used to belong to a shepherd down by the Solway who was famous for having savage collie dogs. As part of their struggle for survival, all of his hens were as wild as the heather – they needed to be, otherwise they would have quickly become dog meat. When he threw in the towel with poultry keeping (possibly because his hens went feral and began laying in hedge bottoms miles away from his house), my mother managed to catch a couple and take them for herself. Over the next couple of years, the handful of rescue bantams mellowed alot, but always kept their wild streak.

I took one of them on when she turned broody, and while she’s perfectly manageable, she is a little unpredictable. She won’t get up with the other silkie x sussex and only comes out to feed when she thinks that nobody is watching. Her broodiness has made her extremely secretive, and I only managed to take this photo of her (above) by hiding in the house and waiting for her in the upstairs bedroom window.

She’s not sitting on pheasants, but has been chosen instead to incubate a mix of pekins and silver sebrights. I know that she’s a good mother and that she’ll do a good job, but there’s a picky part of me which resents her not fitting into a neatly regimented timetable like the silkie. Next year, I’ll have a legion of well drilled broody hens who follow the words of the GWCT book to the letter, but until then, I have to work around a hen with every sign of post traumatic stress disorder.

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