A Traumatic Hatch

Success, but it came at a price.

After twenty four days, my pheasant eggs began to pip. I had to head up to the game fair at Perth (or what remained of it) on Monday to pick up some pieces, and left the broody hen on a nest full of chicks which were visibly chipped.

When I got back in the evening, I went up to the coop and peered in, only to find a mangled chick lying out on the cold wet soil beside the broody. She had smashed its legs into pieces, and although it was still alive, it clearly wasn’t going to do. I had heard of broodies killing their own chicks, but I never imagined that it could happen to me and mine. An hour later, I returned to the coop to find that she had killed another one.

The thought occurred to me to take her off the eggs altogether and put them in a brooder for their own safety, but I balanced that argument with the harsh but sensible fact that I want to learn about hatching under hens more than I want live pheasant chicks. If she killed them all, then so be it. If nothing else, I could use the experience as an opportunity to find out how the process can go wrong, so with a heavy heart, I shut her in and went to bed.

The following morning, I went out for a look expecting to find the gross wreckage of a dozen dead pheasant chicks. Amazingly, there was no sign of any chicks whatsoever. The broody looked at me passively, and as I scattered some feed for her, a little face peeped out from between the feathers. So she had changed her tune.

Over the next twenty four hours, I saw a maximum of three chicks at a time, although it was obvious that they weren’t always the same ones. Even now, she’s sitting too tightly for me to get a proper head count, but it was odd that she had killed the first two and now seems prepared to protect the rest at all costs. She has never hatched chicks before, so perhaps her inexperience is an explanation. Perhaps the rest of the chicks hatched off over that night, and she woke up with them the next morning and accepted them. Either way, it was a traumatic hatch and one which I will certainly bear in mind for the future.

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