Inevitably, the first batch of chicks to come off under the first broody of the year did so during one of the wildest and wettest weekends I can remember. The rain was thrashing down yesterday morning when it was revealed that the mixed clutch of pekins and silver sebrights had begun to hatch. For reasons best known to herself, the black rock mongrel mother rejected one of the sebright chicks, and when we found it lying on its own, pressed up against the door of the broody house, it looked like it was dead. When we picked it up, it made some tiny movements, and we rushed it off under a heat bulb. Within a couple of hours, it had staged a complete recovery.
The next problem was how to get the chick back under its mother. This is something that I’m going to have to learn over the next few years of rearing partridges and black grouse, and, with the greatest respect to my girlfriend’s beloved but totally useless sebrights, I was quite glad that I was learning on something less important than a gamebird.
I opened the coop and placed the fluffy chick infront of its mother this morning. Immediately, she began to peck hell’s bells out of it. It was not going to be as straightforward as I had thought. Retreiving the chick, I held it in the palm of my hand and curled my fingers around it. I then turned my hand upside down and reached down towards the broody. She pecked me quite dramatically, but stood up just long enough for me to drop the chick in amongst its siblings. She was so angry with my hand that she hadn’t seen the transaction, and the chick had used me as a human shield on its way back into the nest.
When I went back to see them this afternoon, I couldn’t see which one it was. There were no obvious casualties, so it seems like the re-adoption was a success.
All this poultry business is quite fun, but I can’t help reminding myself that it’s just training for next year when I’ll do it properly with gamebirds. Even the little I’ve done so far gives me a whole new respect for the old keepers, who must have known an astonishing amount about the birds they worked with.